Cherry Lake Chemical Spill Recovery
Update 5 February 2023
EPA and Melbourne Water deem the water quality in Cherry Lake/Creek to be acceptable according to EPA guidelines.
At the time of the spill there was minimal threat to public health. However, to reduce any potential risk, MW, the EPA and Hobsons Bay City Council installed signs advising the public to avoid contact with the water at the time of the incident.
These signs have now been removed.
Despite the mass fish deaths, a population of fish (carp) remains in the lake and their population is likely to return to pre-existing levels after a few breeding seasons.
Current water bug levels in Cherry Lake are consistent with other nearby waterbodies including Kororoit Creek and the section of Cherry Creek upstream of the pollution incident.
It’s important to note that most urban waterways are polluted to varying degrees, as they carry the runoff from our buildings and streets – litter, hydrocarbons, pesticide residue and much else. Therefore, Melbourne Water still advises against eating caught fish from the lake and creek and avoid interacting with waterbodies/waterways for 48hours after a rain event.
For more information and to request access to the full science report on Cherry Lake's water quality, visit EPA's website.
Update 27 October 2022
MTAW Group Pty Ltd, trading as Melbourne Transport and Warehousing, the company allegedly behind a chemical spill that polluted Cherry Creek and Cherry Lake in Altona North, leading to the deaths of large numbers of fish, has been charged by Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA).
The charges allege that MTAW Group Pty Ltd failed to minimise risk of harm to human health and the environment from pollution or waste in contravention of its General Environmental Duty (GED).
It is alleged the company failed to take all reasonably practicable action to reduce the risk of a spill or leak of dangerous goods stored at its Laverton North site.
Under the GED provisions of the Environment Protection Act 2017, MTAW Group Pty Ltd allegedly failed to act to minimise the risk of harm to human health and the environment and EPA has laid charges to reflect this.
“The decision to charge MTAW Group Pty Ltd and take enforcement action is in addition to the regulatory notices issued to them to clean-up impacts on the waterways, following an incident that saw the community denied access to the creek and lake for several months and allegedly caused thousands of fish deaths,” said EPA CEO Lee Miezis.
“EPA and partner agencies were active in managing the incident which began on 6 March this year and continues at the site to this day as the waterway recovers from the impacts on the chemical spill.”
“The GED makes protection of the environment everyone’s business, and our enforcement action today sends a strong message to polluters that we will hold them to account.”
The company faces a maximum penalty of up $1.8 million.
For more information about EPA’s regulatory action go to epa.vic.gov.au/for-community/incidents/cherry-creek-and-lake
Cherry Lake/Creek Pollution Spill
The waters of Cherry Creek and Cherry Lake have improved after a pollution event reported on 7 March 2022.
The Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) and Melbourne Water have released a scientific summary of the pollution event and the impact to the ecosystem.
Based on water sampling from 11 locations, the lake and creek have naturally recovered, including the natural regeneration of species.
Warning signs will remain in place and the EPA continues to warn the public to avoid drinking the water and eating fish of Cherry Creek and Cherry Lake, south of Kororoit Creek Road as a precaution.
The focus of monitoring is now on the concentration of the detergent in the creek and lake sediments. The sediment concentrations are declining but will take longer to recover.
Clean- up process
The clean-up process from Melbourne Water involved extensive flushing and diverting water to the sewer network. There was also high pressure washing of concrete drains. Strategic bunding at some locations stopped the movement of the detergent. The polluted water was then removed by pumping to sewer. The spill resulted in 20 tonnes of dead fish from Cherry Lake. Dead fish were also removed downstream of Cherry Lake and from Altona Dog Beach. Thirty-six million litres of contaminated water went to sewer.
Following the pollution event, signs advised avoiding contact with the waterway downstream to Altona Dog Beach. Community meetings in March and April 2022 provided the community with latest information. Melbourne Water removed upstream bunding and ceased pumping water to sewer on 28 April. The waterway then returned to normal flows due to the reduction of pollution and bunding removal.
EPA placed water quality monitoring equipment into Cherry Creek and Lake to provide real-time data of waterway conditions. Results showed very high concentrations of the detergent in the water. This led to a loss in dissolved oxygen in the water. Dissolved oxygen is critical for aquatic life and the loss of dissolved oxygen contributed to the fish deaths.
Melbourne Water monitoring has focused on the impact on the ecosystem. Results suggest water bugs are present in the creek and lake again. The bugs are critical to supporting the ongoing ecological recovery and are necessary for fish to return.
Warning signs will remain in place around Cherry Lake and Creek and EPA continues to warn the public to avoid drinking the water and eating fish of Cherry Creek and Cherry Lake, south of Kororoit Creek Road as a precaution.
EPA continues to work with the alleged polluter to ensure they can meet their obligations under the Environment Protection Act 2017.
For more information and to request access to the full report, visit EPA's website.