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2008 December. Pinkenba (Qld): Dioxin Contamination. Pesticides: 2,4,5-T, 2,4-D

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Contaminant found in soil in Brisbane

Dioxin, a toxic chemical used in the defoliant Agent Orange, has been found in soil near the Brisbane River.

Queensland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday revealed the presence of dioxin in soil at an industrial site at Pinkenba and on the banks of a nearby drain which leads into the city’s river.

An EPA statement said the company that owned the land, Incitec Pivot, made the discovery while carrying out soil tests under an environmental program.

The chemical manufacturer informed the EPA on Friday.

It is believed the contamination dates back to the 1960s and 1970s when the land housed a factory which made Agent Orange – a herbicide used in the Vietnam War.

The EPA has no records relating to the factory as controls were not as strict 40 years ago.

Dioxin is a contaminant in Agent Orange which persists in soil and does not readily dissolve in water.

“As dioxins are dangerous chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency is taking the management of this matter extremely seriously,” the statement said.

It said Incitec Pivot would remove the soil early next year using soil clean-up specialists.

“The company will conduct further tests of soil around the site to ensure the contamination is removed from around the drain, and those tests will be independently reviewed,” it said.

“The EPA will monitor the clean-up to ensure that all contamination is safely removed and properly treated.”

Exposure to dioxin has been linked to increased risk of various types of cancer and genetic defects.

Queensland Health said that based on the advice it had received from the EPA there was no health risk to the general public.

A spokesman said the area affected was not open to the public and there was no risk concerning seafood taken from Moreton Bay.

“It is not a health risk to the general community as it is not an area where children play or people visit,” he said.

“Any risk for workers on the site can be managed by good workplace health and safety measures.

“Surveys also have shown that the level of dioxin in Moreton Bay seafood is not a health risk.”