Bulletin No:          055                                     Volume:  20                        Friday 7 March 2014






The Fire Services Commissioner has today changed the testing regime of the water quality in the Hazelwood mine as a direct result of the UFU independent analysis.

The UFU commissioned an independent reputable company to test the water at the Hazelwood mine as a result of increasing concerns about the firefighting conditions and the failure of the fire agencies and government to appropriately test and monitor those conditions.

Previously the Fire Services Commissioner, the CFA and MFB assured the UFU and firefighters that the Environment Protection Authority (“the EPA”) were appropriately testing and monitoring the conditions including the quality of water.   But those assurances did not satisfy the UFU and so independent testing was commissioned.

This morning on radio Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley admitted the UFU-commissioned testing was broader than previous testing and as a result the EPA was being asked to test for the contaminants and toxins that the UFU testing had indentified.

On the ABC radio segment this morning the Fire Services Commissioner vindicated the UFU’s actions.  He recognised that the UFU testing had shown that the EPA testing was not sufficient and had to change as a result.

 “What the UFU has done, and I’ll give them credit…  they have come back and they’ve tested broader than ours, so this morning we’re asking or have asked the EPA to change their test regime to do the same as what the UFU had done in their independent review and have a look at their samples as well.”

The UFU-commissioned testing showed there were high levels of E.Coli and coliforms in the water being used for firefighting.  The testing also detected the presence of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa.

Immediately upon receiving the preliminary results yesterday the UFU notified members and contacted Chief Fire Officer Euan Ferguson and Acting Chief Officer Peter Rau to discuss the health and safety implications.

As a result the MFB directed firefighters to wear special gloves and eye protection in the mine but have not told firefighters the reasons for the added protection.

The UFU is calling for the MFB and CFA to notify all firefighters that anyone with the slightest cut or abrasion should not enter the mine or undertake firefighting duties in the mine.   The CFA and MFB are obligated to inform all firefighters of the presence of any contaminants and toxins and the reasons for added precautions.

The UFU will also be seeking reimbursement of the costs of the independent testing from the Fire Services Commissioner and the fire agencies.

Health Precautions

The results have indicated that the water contains high levels of coliforms and E.Coli. Pseudomonas aeruginosa was also detected.

Based on the information we have to date the advice is that any person with a burn, or cut or any sort of open wound should not come into contact with the water

The highest level of personal hygiene should also be observed and members should take extra precautions in ensuring hands are fully washed after coming into any contact with any water at the site.

Appropriate PPE in particular gloves should be worn and no water should be ingested or inhaled.

If any member comes into primary contact with the water- i.e. it comes into contact with eyes, nose, mouth or open wound, members should seek urgent medical assistance.

Members will be updated more fully as further results and analysis is provided. 

Additionally we request that anyone who has been or is deployed Hazelwood sends an email to their employer seeking that a note is placed on their personal record that they have been deployed and come into contact with contaminated water.

Please notify the UFU if any adverse health effects or symptoms result from deployment to the mine.

Strength in Unity


Authorised by Peter Marshall, Branch Secretary