Authority says reports were not about health

THE Environment Protection Authority has released a statement seeking to clarify the scope of two reports released last week which found there were no ongoing impacts of the Hazelwood mine fire on the Latrobe Valley environment.

These reports looked at air quality, water, soil and ash in Morwell and surrounds and contained the results of a 12-month, ramped-up monitoring program by the EPA in response to the fire.

On Friday the authority’s chief executive Nial Finegan placed a statement on the EPA website stating he wished to “clarify the purpose, scope and findings of these reports”.

“Neither the monitoring program nor the reports were designed to assess the health impacts and outcomes that may or may not have occurred as a result of the fire,” he said in the statement.

“The reports are not intended as a statement on human health issues or wellbeing.

“EPA’s Hazelwood recovery environmental monitoring program was established to determine if there were any ongoing impacts on the quality of the air, water and soil in Latrobe Valley due to the mine fire.”

Voices of the Valley president Wendy Farmer said she contacted the EPA following the release of the reports with concerns there was a community perception they also referred to ongoing health impacts.

“I’m really pleased they (the EPA) have listened,” Ms Farmer said.

Following the recommendations of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry, a Department of Health-funded study has begun into the long-term health impacts of the fire on the community.

The study is a partnership between multiple institutions and is being led by Monash University.

The inquiry has also been reopened by the new State Government to focus on claims of a spike in deaths following the fire and the rehabilitation of local coal mines.