Steering Panel meetings

The Steering Panel overseeing the Independent Review into off-site mercury at Orica Botany meets regularly and details of their deliberations are provided below.

16 December 2014

At the meeting of 16 December 2014 the Steering Panel considered the draft Sampling and Analysis Quality Plan and agreed to the plan on the basis that a number of changes were implemented, including a change in the sequence of the sampling, with public land sampling being completed prior to private land sampling. The EPA agreed to meet with Randwick and Botany Bay Councils to discuss the sampling plan and locations.

It was agreed that draft fact sheets, communications plan and draft letter to residents/landowners were to be distributed to panel members for comment, and the EPA reported that it would be making a video explaining mercury for the general public.

Read the meeting outcomes and actions (PDF 182KB).

25 November 2014

At the meeting of 25 November 2014 it was reported that an inception meeting for Stage 2 had been held with WSP Environmental Pty Ltd on 3 November 2014 and that contact details of residents interested in having their properties sampled were provided to WSP directly from CDM Smith to ensure confidentiality. It was reported that WSP were successful in finding a provider in the USA to supply a mercury vapour monitor with a sufficiently low detection limit. It was noted that WSP would be providing their sampling plan for approval, and the panel made a number of requests for specific issues to be taken into consideration.

The panel noted that communications with residents interested in having their properties sampled would need to include an initial communication that sampling will be occurring followed by direct conversation to talk through the process, and subsequently a formal letter outlining liabilities. It was also noted that Stage 2 communications activities may need to consider NSW Ministry of Health writing explanatory letters to local general practitioners for their information.

It was reported that Orica had announced a sale of their chemicals business, although they would retain responsibility for legacy environmental and contamination issues. In addition, the panel discussed the Upper House Inquiry on the performance of the EPA.

Read the meeting outcomes and actions (PDF 223KB).

14 October 2014

At the meeting of 14 October 2014 the panel discussed the procedure for Stage 2 to be conducted by WSP Environmental Pty Ltd, in particular the requirements for communication with the community and residents wishing to have their properties sampled. It was agreed that WSP would provide their sampling plan for approval, and that a member of staff from OEH Science will be an observer for some of the sampling conducted and will take some duplicate samples.

Read the meeting outcomes and actions (PDF 122KB).

9 September 2014

At the meeting of 9 September 2014 two shortlisted applicants for Stage 2 of the review gave presentations of their appreciation of the scope and proposed methodologies to the panel. This was followed by questions from the panel which included discussion of air modelling, sediment sampling and community engagement.

Following the presentations the panel discussed the relative merits of each presentation and made a recommendation on the preferred contractor.

Read the meeting outcomes and actions (PDF 235KB).

11 June 2014

At the meeting of 1 June 2014 it was confirmed that Professor Chris Fell had been nominated and approved to by the Steering Panel and had agreed to the appointment.

A discussion took place regarding what should be included in the scope of works by the tender applicants for Stage 2 of the review. The panel discussed the responsibilities of the Stage 2 contractor in providing specific community consultation activities as required. It was agreed that metrics data for this would need to be collected by contractor.

Stakeholder engagement was also discussed, including communication of the Stage 1 Report and the timeline for communications for Stage 2. It was agreed that the EPA would communicate milestone events to all stakeholders, in particular the community, via a number of engagement channels.

A breakdown of budget spend for Stage 1 of the review was reported to panel.

Read the meeting outcomes and actions (PDF 104KB).

7 May 2014

At its meeting of 7 May 2014, the Steering Panel discussed whether it should be engaged in PCB and PAH issues management. The panel agreed to the approach proposed by the EPA that, as well as the mercury soil sampling, additional soil samples would be collected by the Stage 2 contractor and analysed for lead, chromium, PAHs and PCBs from sites identified within the area bounded by Denison Street, Beauchamp Road, Rhodes Street and the Sydney Water easement at Hillsdale.

Feedback on the request to the EPA Board for a recommendation on a new panel member was provided and a number of options were discussed. The panel agreed that Mark Gifford would discuss the three favoured options with the Minister at their next meeting.

The Stage 2 procurement process was also discussed with members of the panel expressing a preference to delay the procurement of the Stage 2 contractor until the new panel member had been found. It was agreed that the decision to delay or not would depend on the outcome of the discussion with the Minister.

Read the meeting's outcomes and actions (PDF 55KB).

5 March 2014

The Steering Panel's 11th meeting of 5 March discussed the outcomes of the Stage 1 Community Forum which had been held on 12 February. The panel felt that the forum went well overall, it was well attended and good detail of the work and answers to questions was provided.

Panel members also discussed the operation of the Steering Panel and whether appointment of an 'independent' chair was required as suggested by the Fell Review. The outcome of the discussion and vote was that the Steering Panel would not seek a new chair but the EPA Board would be approached to request the Minister to make a recommendation for a new panel member to improve the procedures and credibility of the panel by including another independent person.

The Stage 2 Procurement Process was discussed, including the goal of the testing and that the testing would be designed to assess any health risk from mercury contamination in a scientifically objective manner.

Read the meeting's outcomes and actions (PDF 53KB).

30 January 2014

At the Steering Panel's 10th meeting of 30 January, finalisation of CDM Smith's Stage 1 report was discussed with the consultant. This included the removal of any details that could identify questionnaire respondents, use of plainer English, particularly for describing mass balance, and the reason for using deposition modelling.

The community forum of 12 February was also further discussed and that Elton Consulting was to chair and facilitate the meeting, provide ground rules and record notes and questions.

Recommendations from the panel were taken for the next steps for Stage 2. Biota sampling scope will need to be conducted, taking into consideration the species people catch and where people fish, such as middle-layer fish species. Community members nominated Lynda Newnam to be the representative on the selection committee for the Stage 2 procurement process.

Read the meeting's outcomes and actions (PDF 56KB).

12 December 2013

The Steering Panel discussed the proposed community forum in early February at which the findings of CDM Smith's Stage 1 report will be presented. The discussion included stakeholder engagement, such as advertising and a newsletter to be delivered to local residents and businesses, what would be a suitable venue and the use of a facilitator.

Read the meeting's outcomes and actions (PDF 50KB).

4 December 2013

At the Steering Panel's eighth meeting on 4 December the panel were informed that further testing by Sydney Water in regard to Hillsdale had been released and is the third that has conducted testing which has found that there is no mercury above the Health Investigation Levels.

The Steering Panel members provided their comments on the Draft Stage 1 Report which included discussion of limitations of modelling, use of mass balance, privacy of respondents, readability and use of plain English and the need for an explanation of Health Investigation Levels and lower spectrum health effects of mercury. The sampling regime was discussed including design and rationale as was the stakeholder and community engagement approach.

The EPA and Panel recognised the recent passing of Nancy Hillier and her work for the Botany community.

Read the meeting's outcomes and actions (PDF 45KB).

21 November 2013

At the Steering Panel's seventh meeting on 21 November, the EPA Stakeholder Engagement Schedule, a diagram clarifying roles, and a link to the 'scientifically rigorous' statement published on a webpage was discussed.

CDM Smith Australia Pty Ltd, the expert consultant appointed to perform stage 1 of the review, met with the panel and discussed the findings of the draft report.

The process for Stage 2 of the independent review was discussed, including timing, preparation of the scope, and tender selection committee membership.

Read the meeting's outcomes and actions (PDF 48KB).

12 September 2013

At the Steering Panel's sixth meeting on 12 September, the EPA's community engagement activities were discussed, including the outcomes of the Botany Mayor's days.

The Steering Panel discussed Stage 1 of the Independent Review with the appointed expert consultant, CDM Smith Australia Pty Ltd. This discussion included the approach, timeline and planning for the project and identification of gaps in the available information to address questions.

Communications with the community and other consultation activities by both the EPA and CDM Smith were also discussed.

Other business included the Penrhyn Estuary fishing closure, Sydney Water's testing of the Hillsdale easement, an Orica report that has been provided to the independent reviewer and the recent EPA stakeholder engagement survey.

Read the meeting's outcomes and actions (PDF 67KB).

25 July 2013

At the Steering Panel's fifth meeting on Thursday 25 July, three shortlisted applicants gave presentations to the panel outlining their appreciation of the scope of the Stage 1 - Data and Information Collection and Review and their proposed methodologies.

Each presentation was followed by questions from the panel. The panel then discussed a preferred applicant to recommend to the Selection Committee.

The Selection Committee subsequently met to finalise the assessment and choose a preferred applicant based on these discussions. They submitted a procurement process report and recommended a proposed supplier to the EPA who will make the final decision and appoint the Independent Reviewer.

Read the meeting's outcomes and actions (PDF 25KB).

Due to time constraints at the meeting, the Steering Panel was subsequently provided with an update on recent activities in relation to the Independent Review, including procurement, a report on Orica, community engagement and other issues.

Read the Steering Panel update (PDF 124KB).

1 July 2013

At the Steering Panel's fourth meeting on Monday 1 July, the Penrhyn Estuary fishing closure gazettal was discussed with panel members regarding this as a positive public health outcome. Signage is being prepared by NSW Fisheries and they have been requested to provide a preview to the panel for input.

The NSW Office of Water has been approached for further information on the rationale for the groundwater exclusion zone placement.

The 'Sewer Report' and 'Pressure Relief Valves' information has been provided by Orica for submission to the Independent Review and there was a discussion about panel members having access to the 'Sewer Report'. The EPA will formally request Orica to provide the document to the Steering Panel members.

The procurement process and assessment of shortlisted applicants for Stage 1 - Data and Information Collection and Review was discussed. This included the selection criteria, the benefits and disadvantages of each and their actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interest, their significance and how they can be managed.

Liza Cassidy (EPA, Manager Public Affairs and Communication) spoke to the panel about community engagement strategies for both the Mercury Independent Review and the EPA's general approach to engaging and communicating. This included discussion of community engagement 'Pop-Ups' in the Southpoint shopping centre to provide information and elicit feedback on the mornings of Saturday 13 and 20 July.

Read the meeting's outcomes and actions (PDF 55KB).

23 May 2013

At the third meeting of the Steering Panel on Thursday 23 May, the City of Botany Bay Council provided an updated map of the area which was discussed by panel members, particularly the Groundwater Exclusion Zones. The EPA will seek further information from the NSW Office of Water regarding the rationale for the placement of the zones.

Other information for the review was also discussed including a report about pollution in sewers and the use of 'Pressure Relief Valves'. Information is being sought from Orica as well as WorkCover and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The procurement process for an independent consultant to perform Stage 1 of the review, 'Data and Information Collection and Review', is progressing. Requests for tenders were sent to selected consultants and applications closed on 14 June. The EPA confirmed that potential conflicts of interest must be declared and will be assessed with advice from the Steering Panel.

The panel also discussed the EPA's community engagement strategy. This included a community engagement 'pop-up' in a high traffic area such as a shopping centre to provide information and elicit feedback and a request for input to the independent review to be promoted on-line and in newspapers.

The EPA explained what other testing was conducted alongside recent HCB sampling including mercury, pesticides and PCBs and that test results are available to the panel members if they wish.

Read the meeting's outcomes and actions (PDF 42KB).

18 April 2013

At its second meeting on Thursday 18 April, the Steering Panel had a teleconference discussion with a former ICI employee who told members about their experience and some historical background of the Orica plant and contamination issues including mercury.

There was further discussion on the Terms of Reference and Scope of Works which were agreed to be finalised upon inclusion of these suggestions.

A mercury factsheet developed by the NSW Ministry of Health with input from the EPA and OEH was discussed and a map of the area provided by City of Botany Bay Council to assist the panel in its deliberations. This was discussed and the panel made suggestions about additions.

The EPA explained how it is working with NSW Fisheries on the Penrhyn Estuary fishing closure and signage and to improve community communication.

Read the meeting's outcomes and actions (PDF 44KB).

14 March 2013

The Steering Panel held its first meeting on Thursday 14 March. The panel was given some historical background regarding the Orica plant, mercury issues and the lead up to the Independent Review and other issues in the area. The sentiment of the community in regard to testing and assessment of the risks were also described, along with the notice of motion from the community forum of 7 March.

Members went on to discuss the purpose and function of the Steering Panel and the details and wording of the draft Terms of Reference. A proposal for preliminary surface soil sampling was also considered.

The draft Scope of Works was presented to the panel who discussed details of the way the Independent Review should be conducted and what should be included. There was a dialogue about some of the technicalities of sampling and health risk assessments and the need to ensure community concerns are addressed. The procurement process and costs management, including a description of the tendering requirements, were also discussed.

The meeting agreed that the principles of the Steering Panel must be to work cooperatively, with goodwill, and use constructive communication that reflects the deliberations of the panel.

Read the meeting's outcomes and actions (PDF 60KB).

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