2007 February: Child Care Centre on Pesticides Site

Child care centre ‘on pesticides site’

February 16, 2007

Western Australia is conducting a review of all its child care centres after a centre was shut down after it was found to have been built on an old pesticides site.

WA’s Department for Community Development (DCD) on Thursday suspended the licence of the Cuddles Child Care Centre in Carlisle, in Perth’s east, after being advised the centre was built over an old pesticides facility owned by pharmaceuticals company Bayer.

The state Health Department said it learnt this on Tuesday and told DCD the site was possibly contaminated because pesticide containers had been inappropriately disposed of there, probably in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In an information sheet for parents on its website, the Health Department said the pesticide residue was later removed and soil monitoring in 1997 and 1998 showed pesticide levels met acceptable standards.

It is unlikely children have been affected because the contamination was located at the rear of the old property, not near the day care centre, the information sheet said.

DCD spokesman Mark Glasson said all the state’s licensed child care centres will now be checked to make sure they are not on contaminated sites.

“The department … will in future ensure that application forms for a childcare centre licence will incorporate questions seeking information about the history of the land on which they propose to operate,” Mr Glasson said.

Mr Glasson said the Cuddles Child Care Centres company was given permission by the Town of Victoria Park to build the Carlisle centre in May 2005.

Under local planning requirements, childcare centres are regarded as commercial developments and require less stringent health checks than residential developments.

Town of Victoria Park spokeswoman Rochelle Lavery said the Council recently discovered that when Bayer conducted the clean-up of the site it failed to submit its final report to the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).

This meant the clean-up never received the final tick-off and when the council alerted Bayer to this the company then submitted its final report to DEC, Ms Lavery said.

“I’m presuming that there’s some concern that the processes that were in place in 1997 are not acceptable now,” Ms Lavery said.

Bayer Australia and Cuddles child care centres have been contacted for comment.

Cuddles Management, which owns the Carlisle Cuddles centre, later released a statement saying it had no prior knowledge of the site being used by a chemical company or of any contamination.

“How did the town of Victoria Park allow for the approval of the site with the knowledge of the prior use and why were reports not audited at this stage?”, Cuddles Management state manager Roberta Keown asked.

The Health Department will now test the site for pesticides and heavy metals and assess the risk to 70 or more children who were at the centre.