Coffs Harbour City Council has been working with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), other government agencies and community representatives to progress the remediation of hydrocarbon-contaminated groundwater affecting an area in Coramba.
Update February 2015
A trial switch off is being undertaken of the air sparge.
A recent round of ground water monitoring has indicated that the air sparge system and natural processes have been effective in reducing the contamination levels within the groundwater.
The monitoring data suggests that the air sparge system has been effective, however, to check the results further, Council - in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - is first intending to conduct a trial by turning the air sparge system off for a period of approximately three months. The trial is due to start within the coming weeks.
Monthly river water monitoring will continue to be undertaken throughout the trial period and, at the end of the trial, a further comprehensive round of monitoring of the ground water wells will be undertaken to assess the need for the ongoing use of the air sparge or whether further remediation measures will be necessary.
See the flyer below for more information.
2015 Sparge Information Flyer
Council received grant funding from the NSW Government via its Environmental Trust, to progress the remediation on behalf of the community.
In August 2009, the NSW Minister for Planning issued Project Approval to Council's Major Project Application under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act (EP&A Act), to construct and operate a groundwater remediation technology in Martin Street, Coramba.
Project Approval information on DoP website
In essence, the remediation includes the installation of an "air sparge system with soil vapour extraction (SVE) and treatment". The location of the "air sparge system" has been within the alluvial sediments adjacent to the Orara River at the end of Martin Street. The system is intended to intercept contaminated groundwater before it can enter the river, and in doing so should assist in the reduction of hydrocarbon vapour release to the atmosphere. The installation and commissioning of Stage One of the remediation work was completed in October 2011.
See Fact Sheet below for more detail.
Fact Sheet 2011
Groundwater contamination was discovered in Coramba in 2002 when fuel odours were noticed by a resident near the Orara River.
Actions were taken immediately by Council and the government agencies responsible to safeguard the village's reticulated water supply and introduce environmental monitoring. Subsequent investigations discovered that a fuel tank at the service station at 33-35 Gale Street was leaking and it was removed. In all, around 1,500 litres of unleaded fuel is believed to have leaked from the tank. This is believed to be the only facility which has been storing fuel since the 1980s and the only local site that stored unleaded petrol. Unleaded petrol was introduced in the mid 1980s.
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) has overall statutory responsibility to deal with the contamination.
Community Working Party
Following a public meeting in December 2006, OEH, the NSW Department of Health, Council and the Premier's Office formed the Coramba Fuel Contamination Interagency Community Working Party with members of the Coramba community to progress remediation of the groundwater contamination.
The first meeting of the Community Working Party was held on 26 February 2007.
At that first meeting, the Working Party asked Council to consider becoming the applicant to the NSW Environmental Trust so that it could apply - on behalf of the Coramba community - for funding to enable remediation work to begin and to project manage the work, subject to receiving the necessary grants. Following approval of that request at a subsequent Council meeting in April 2007, Council agreed to apply to the Trust for funding to cover the costs of the first stage of the remediation works. The first stage includes the installation of an 'air sparge' system. This involves injecting pressurized air into the water table to strip away the contaminants, plus air, river water and groundwater monitoring - as per the recommendations of the Community Working Party. Environmental studies will also be carried out to gain consent for the remediation works from the NSW Department of Planning.
A grant funding application was submitted to the NSW Environmental Trust by Council on 2 May 2007. A second public meeting was held in Coramba on 14 June, 2007, which heard that Phil Koperberg, the NSW Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, had made $895,000 available for the above work.
A number of reports have been written on the contamination. The following four (4) reports were prepared in late 2006:
- 'Environmental Assessment Report' prepared by WSP Environmental Pty Ltd;
- 'Remedial Action Plan', prepared by WSP Environmental Pty Ltd;
- 'Site Auditors Report' prepared by an Accredited Site Auditor with HLA Envirosciences Pty Ltd; and
- 'Airborne Benzene Monitoring Report' prepared by Workplace Environment Consultants Pty Ltd.
These reports are available for viewing at Coffs Harbour City Council's Administrative Centre at the corner of Coff and Castle Streets, Coffs Harbour.
Groundwater Monitoring Reports
WSP Groundwater Monitoring Report July 2008
WSP Groundwater Monitoring Report June 2011
WSP Groundwater Monitoring Report August 2013
WSP Groundwater Monitoring Report December 2014
Coramba Water Health Risk Report
Below is the Coramba Water Health Risk Report undertaken in 2007 by North Coast Area Health Service Director Paul Corben.
Coramba Health Risk Assessment June 2007
Coramba Orara River Water Monitoring
Water Monitoring Results - 2009 to January 2015
Frequently Asked Questions
Below is a document produced for the community in March 2007 which answers a series of commonly asked questions on the issue.
Coramba Groundwater Contamination FAQs
If you have further questions about the groundwater contamination please contact:
Manager Contaminated Sites Section, OEH
Ph: 02 9995 5000,
Fax: 02 9995 5999
Department of Environment and Heritage (OEH)
Contaminated Sites Section
PO Box A290 South Sydney NSW 1232
You can also contact OEH via the "Environment Line" by phone: 131 555 (local call cost in NSW)
Manager, Environmental Services
Coffs Harbour City Council
Ph: 02 6648 4635,
Fax: 02 6648 4199
Coffs Harbour City Council
Locked Bag 155
Coffs Harbour NSW 2450
Director Public Health - Public Health Unit,
NSW Health - Mid and North Coast Local Health Districts
Ph: 02 6588 2750,
Fax: 02 6588 2837
Mid North Coast Local Health District - Public Health Unit
PO Box 126 Port Macquarie NSW 2444
The information provided on this website is provided in good faith by the Department of Environment and Heritage (OEH), Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC) and NSW Health (North Coast Area Health Service - NCAHS). You should be aware that in making this material available, we are not providing professional advice and accept no liability arising in connection to or from reliance on this material.