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24 Feb 2023

Peter Milne, WA Today

Australia: Toxic waste allegedly leaked over drinking water from Willowdale mine operations

See all tags Allegations

"Alcoa piped toxic waste over drinking water dam, and asked for approval afterwards", 24 February 2023

"Bauxite miner Alcoa pumped PFAS-contaminated water over a dam in south-west WA without approval from the environment regulator or the knowledge of Water Corporation, which had judged the plan an “unacceptable risk to drinking water quality”.

In August 2022, Alcoa submitted a plan to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation for a system to clean up water contaminated with toxic PFAS from past use of firefighting foam, but the document failed to mention that a white polyethylene pipeline over the dam was already installed....

The environment regulator, Water Corporation and members of the public are worried a leak from the pipeline could contaminate the dam and would still be unaware of what Alcoa has done without the actions of a whistle-blower whose photos, published today by this masthead, show the 10-kilometre-long pipeline crossing the dam....

Satellite photos confirmed the pipeline was in place and that the construction of ponds to hold the water started in February 2021.

Water Corporation did not know Alcoa had constructed the pipeline over its dam, a spokesman said.

“It is Water Corporation’s view that such a pipeline would, along with other concerns, present an unacceptable risk to drinking water quality, therefore, Water Corporation does not support Alcoa’s proposal in its current form,” he said...

An Alcoa spokeswoman said transporting the contaminated water from Orion to Arundel by a pipeline was safer than using trucks....

Alcoa said the pipeline was laid in a conveyor maintenance corridor only accessed by authorised personnel using light vehicles and there had been no leaks.

“Our preference is to continue to transport water containing low concentrations of PFAS out of the catchment when the need arises using the lowest risk method,” the spokeswoman said.

“Alcoa has always acted responsibly and proactively to ensure the drinking water supply is not negatively impacted by water containing low concentrations of PFAS within the Samson Catchment.”"