Current issues

Sunshine groundwater contamination – results of testing so far

On this page:

The former Massey Ferguson site and its current occupants

The orange shading on the map shows the area the former Massey Ferguson site once occupied in Sunshine, while the white labels indicate current site users.

Groundwater testing

Groundwater beneath Sunshine is about 10 metres below the ground surface. Until recently, there was little information available on contaminants in groundwater in this area.

EPA has reviewed the results of recent groundwater testing undertaken in the Sunshine area. Many of those results, including those from the former Sunvale Primary School site (see map for location), show the presence of TCE in groundwater.

Groundwater testing in 2015, beneath two separate sections of the former Massey Ferguson site, found chlorinated hydrocarbons (including TCE), metals, and petroleum hydrocarbons in groundwater beneath the site.

The highest level of TCE found (299 µg/L) indicates the groundwater is unacceptable for uses such as drinking, recreation, irrigation and as water for pets and livestock

Further groundwater testing is needed to track the spread of any contamination and other potential sources in the wider Sunshine area.

Further details about groundwater contamination are provided in the clean up notice.

Soil testing

Chemicals in soil

After the Massey Ferguson site closed down, the site remained dormant for a number of years before plans for its reuse were finalised. A large area of the site was assessed for soil contamination during the 1990s and about half of the site went through an environmental audit process. The results showed that site had significant areas of contamination, including metals, hydrocarbons and a range of other contaminants related to past industrial land uses.

The environmental auditor found that the remaining soil contamination made the land unsuitable for sensitive uses such as low-density residential, where people could come into regular direct contact with the soil. However, the site is not currently used for this purpose and access to soil is restricted by buildings, paving and fencing.

Further details about soil contamination are provided in the clean-up notice.

Vapours in soil

Vapours from contaminants in groundwater may move up through the soil. Vapours of TCE and other chlorinated hydrocarbons have been detected within soil along the east side of the former Massey Ferguson site. The highest recorded soil vapour level of TCE in soil (610,000 µg/m3) is above the guideline for commercial land use. A vapour barrier was installed beneath the office building in the affected area to reduce the risk of vapours collecting in the building.

Further details about soil vapour testing are provided in the clean-up notice.

Air testing for vapours

EPA tested air samples from the following buildings (see the map above for locations):

  • Foundry Towers apartment complex
  • Visy Cares Hub
  • Village Cinemas
  • Sunshine Plaza
  • Sunshine Marketplace
  • Brimbank Community and Civic Centre.

TCE was not found in any of the air samples. Low levels of other contaminants were found, but were in line with background levels for Melbourne indoor air. These places are considered safe.

Next steps in the investigation

As a result of the clean up notice (PDF 319KB appendices A and B PDF 776KB) issued to AGCO, further work will be undertaken at the former Massey Ferguson site to investigate contamination and clean up the site.

Due to Sunshine’s industrial history, it is likely that there are other sources of contamination in the wider area. EPA will continue to work with Brimbank Council, past and present land owners and the rest of the community to determine any other contamination and potential sources.

Environmental investigations of this nature can take a significant amount of time; however, all results so far have indicated that community health is not at risk, as long as you are not in direct contact with contaminated groundwater. The groundwater in Sunshine sits around 10 metres below the ground surface, so direct contact is unlikely.

About the clean up notice

Clean up notices are issued under section 62A of the Environment Protection Act. A clean up notice aims to prevent further contamination and impact on current and future users of the land. Under this process:

  • the duty holder – in this case the former land owner, AGCO – must engage an EPA-appointed environmental auditor to carry out an environmental audit on the site
  • the appointment of an auditor will ensure a thorough environmental assessment, which will be undertaken using auditor requirements under s53X of the Act
  • the auditor will investigate the history of the site and decide what environmental testing is needed to comply with EPA’s requirements
  • a human health and environmental risk assessment will be undertaken to determine the appropriate remediation strategy, including the development of a cleanup plan.

Read more about the environmental audit process. The notice issued to AGCO is also available on EPA’s Interaction Portal.

Further information

Information and updates about this investigation will be posted on this website. Please call EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) for more information.

EPA staff will be available to talk to community members at a drop-in information stand on Tuesday 27 June at:

Sunshine Library (Brimbank Community and Civic Centre)
301 Hampshire Road

Community members are welcome to attend any time between 4pm and 7pm.

Page last updated on 19 Jun 2017