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EPA responds to media regarding backyard lead contamination in Hobart suburb

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has responded to a media inquiry regarding any research or warnings about lead pollution in backyard vegetables and/or chooks in areas around Hobart. The following information was provided in response to this inquiry.

  • Contamination of soil by metals in Lutana and surrounding suburbs was detected in the 1990s. The primary source was identified as metal-rich dust from historic stockpiles at the Zinc Works site, which were subsequently covered.
  • Health assessments conducted in the 1990's found there was no evidence that the health of the residents was affected by the lead and cadmium contamination in soil. However, the Director of Public Health recommended some precautionary measures be followed by residents in the affected areas so as to further reduce any potential exposure risk.
  • In 2008 the EPA and Nyrstar carried out a further soil sampling project in order to update information on the degree and extent of this contamination and to see if any changes had occurred. A Project Steering Committee - comprised of representatives from the EPA, the Department of Health and Human Services, Local Councils, the Nyrstar smelter and residents - was formed to guide the study. An independent consultant was engaged to devise the sampling plan and conduct the field work, which included the extensive sampling and collection of nearly 500 samples.
  • ​The concentration of metals in soils was not found to be significantly different to previous surveys however the more extensive survey and modern technology enabled a more precise definition of the boundary of the area affected. This resulted in a reduction of the area where metals levels were above national investigation levels and where precautions to reduce risk were advised.
  • The EPA website contains information about the Lutana contamination investigation, including the information bulletin for residents and a map of the zone boundary.
  • The EPA and Councils have records of other potentially contaminating activities that may have occurred in the past, such as foundries and metal treatment, and the EPA provides a service know as Property Information Requests​ for anyone interested in a particular area of land.
  • Lead paint and leaded petrol were once common in the general community, hence some residual contamination may be present in local areas.

*In the interests of public disclosure and accurate reporting, the EPA Director makes available responses to media inquiries via the EPA website under News