The below information aims to provide the correct story.
On 2 October 2012 The Herald Sun published the following report regarding the quality of water used for hot fire training at Fiskville:
“Water at CFA's notorious Fiskville base still fails to meet safety standards by: Stephen Drill
WATER used at the CFA's notorious Fiskville base has still failed to meet safety standards, despite the authority switching to mains water to extinguish training fires.
A report from water contamination expert Cardno Lane Piper reveals that water in the dams at the base had unacceptable levels of suspended solids when tested last month.
The pollutants can be the carriers of toxic chemicals, which attach to the solids, making it more difficult to filter water to make it safe for human use.”
CFA provided the below response before the article was published:
“The suspended solids are most likely clay particles from dirty water than ran into the pit following rain.
Cardno Lane Piper has assured CFA there are no health risks associated with these suspended solids.
They have recommended the water in the pit - which was filled with town water - be replaced by mid-October.
CFA has already drained the water and is high-pressure cleaning the pit. The pit will then be refilled with fresh town water.”
All water used for fire fighting training at Fiskville, including for the safety lines, is sourced from town water and is now stored in two new 260,000 litre above ground tanks, one installed in September and the other in mid-October 2012.
The new tanks are fully enclosed and contain ‘food grade’ internal bladders which hold the water.
The tanks have been filled with water sourced from Central Highlands Water who conducts routine water testing prior to being released into pipes/taps for general water use.
Although frequent routine water monitoring of the water in the tanks is not required as the source of water is clean and the tanks are fully enclosed, CFA will organise water tests upon commissioning of the tanks to be undertaken by Central Highlands Water against the criteria in the Water Management Plan (A Class water) to confirm its quality.
Following on from that, the tanks will have regular inspections and water quality tests every month-to ensure this high level of water quality is maintained.
On October 8 2012 the Herald Sun published the following claims:
'Neighbours from hell' Fiskville spray farm with shrapnel by: Stephen Drill
EXPLOSIVES detonated at Fiskville have sprayed shrapnel on to a neighbouring property, narrowly missing lambs in adjoining paddocks.
In the latest controversy at the CFA's notorious training base, fuses from the bombs and shards of concrete landed hundreds of metres away from the site of the explosions.
Ned Callow, who shares a boundary with the CFA's training headquarters, said the authority was the "neighbours from hell" after he found parts of the bombs on his land.
CFA provided the below response before the article was published:
“The Fiskville training site is utilised by several other emergency service agencies. This includes Victoria Police who, for more than 10 years, have been using the site for specialised explosives training.
Victoria Police has assured CFA any explosives training at Fiskville is highly monitored and stringent safety measures are in place.
Fiskville is a firefighting training facility so there are several hot training days which understandably create smoke plumes. CFA however issues a ‘Hot Fire Advice’ message via email to neighbouring properties with details of upcoming training days involving fire.
CFA’s Executive Director of Operational Training and Volunteerism, Lex de Man, has been in regular contact with Mr Callow regarding his concerns, and those discussions will continue to resolve any issues.”
Victoria Police also provided this response to a Herald Sun media enquiry:
“Victoria Police conducted a training exercise at Fiskville on 21 June. The exercise included a routine explosives demonstration.
The demonstration was strictly controlled and monitored by Victoria Police explosive experts and carefully calculated to ensure that debris did not spread outside the boundaries of the paddock.
This demonstration is governed by strict safety procedures and has been conducted regularly over the past 10 years without incident. Demonstrations are conducted in middle of a large CFA paddock with no concrete in the vicinity.
Victoria Police is not aware of any complaints by residents in relation to the training exercise and encourages anyone with any concerns to contact police.”
‘Wading In Poison’, Herald Sun 18/7/12.
The Herald Sun reported:
- In 2000, CFA members were made to swim through a ‘contaminated’ dam.
- In May 2011, members were forced to wade ‘chest-deep’ in a ‘contaminated’ dam.
- The UFU’s claims that CFA had placed a ‘gag order’ on staff to avoid public scrutiny.
- In 2000, a group of trainees swam once through three dams as part of a training exercise. Dam 3 was a newly constructed dam (built in 1999) and it's not clear if it was connected to the PAD fire water training system at that time. It was filled by rainwater and possible overflow from Dam 2 if it was connected (until early 2012 Dam 2 provided water for fire training). The two other dams used in 2000 were at the golf course and were not connected to the PAD fire water training sytstem and were filled by rainwater. CFA is not aware of any evidence that there was any health risk. The Professor Rob Joy Report found that people who had infrequent possible dermal contact with, and ingestion of, fire training water (like trainees mentioned above) were, at worst, at very low risk. Swimming in dams is not a normal part of CFA training.
- In 2011, CFA members did enter Dam 2 up to their knees as part of a HAZMAT training exercise. Importantly, they were wearing fully enclosed, airtight gas suits and breathing apparatus. They also passed through a decontamination shower at its conclusion. The water in Dam 2 is regularly tested as per the Fiskville Water Management Plan to ensure it remains within health parameters. It is used in fire hoses on the PAD. Currently to ensure there can be no question at all about safety at Fiskville we are using potable water in PAD fire training.
- An email was sent to Fiskville staff by Fiskville management reminding them of their responsibilities to maintain the security of records. This was done as these records include private members’ details and CFA strongly supports this stance. CFA has been and remains, committed to being open and honest regarding information at Fiskville. This has included commissioning the $4 million Professor Joy report which was made public and is available on the CFA website.
‘Come clean or be dammed’, Herald Sun 20/7/12
The Herald Sun has reported that photographs show that on two occasions members were ‘in contact with water that may have been contaminated with toxic chemicals’ as they were not wearing decontamination suits. The examples were during ‘ship’s hull’ training in July 2011 and in 4WD training in April 2006.
- The 4WD dam is not connected to the PAD fire water training system and is filled only by rainwater. The advice of Professor Joy suggests any buried drums would likely be buried around 1 km from the 4WD dam and pose minimal risk.
- Water used in the ‘ship’s hull’ is taken from the Pit which is regularly tested as per the Fiskville Water Management Plan to ensure it remains within health parameters. Again, CFA is confident – based on the Professor Joy Report – that there is negligible risk.
In both training examples, the people depicted in the photos are wearing standard issue CFA Personal Protective Clothing overalls and boots which they would wear when fighting a bushfire.
Fiskville should be closed ‘due to ensuring the safety of our members’, UFU bulletin 19/7/12
CFA is committed to keeping Fiskville open and operational.
It is an important training facility for the State and, while some improvements will be made and testing undertaken, it is a safe site and there is nothing that requires it to be closed.
Importantly, a number of environmental and health experts have inspected the facility and found it poses no significant health risk to staff or visitors.
CFA will continue to be guided by health and environmental experts and staff and visitors at Fiskville should take comfort from their findings.