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Case Studies

Remediation and Containment of Lead and Arsenic Contamination at a Historical Copper Smelter

February 5, 2024
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The EESI team faced a significant task at the Kanahooka Copper Smelter site near Dapto, NSW. Established in 1895 by The Smelting Co. of Australia Ltd and operational until 1905, the site was historically used for processing various metals, including copper, lead, silver, zinc, and gold. The legacy of these activities resulted in heavy metal contamination, particularly with lead and arsenic. The site, including slag dumps, flues, and former retorts, was declared a heritage item, adding complexity to the remediation process.

The Solution

EESI's approach, beginning two decades before the final remediation as a residential development, involved extensive investigations and innovative strategies. Three primary areas requiring remediation were identified: the slag heap, soil directly impacted by smelter operations, and areas affected by aerial deposition of heavy metals.

Over 25,000 m³ of heavy metal-impacted soils were excavated and relocated to a prepared containment cell within a former slag heap. This allowed for future residential development on the site. During the excavation, EESI worked alongside an archaeological team, uncovering hidden artefacts and remnants of the former smelter. Several uncovered remnants were retained as feature items in the area's rehabilitation. In addition, EESI used a XRF gun for validation, supporting laboratory data to ensure the site was safe for residential use.

The Benefits

This remediation project transformed a historically contaminated site into an area suitable for residential development. The innovative use of bioremediation and careful excavation around heritage items demonstrated EESI's ability to handle complex environmental challenges while preserving historical significance. The project's success was validated by the EPA Auditor, ensuring compliance with strict environmental standards.

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The Environmental Earth Sciences International Group acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.