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Holden neighbours in the clear

Breathe easy: A map of the houses checked for TCE vapour pollution next to the Holden factory at Elizabeth.

Tests show ‘extremely low’ levels of TCE toxic gas pollution at Holden factory

Holden logo18 Sep 2012


HOMES near GM Holden’s Elizabeth factory in South Australia have been given a clean bill of health after traces of toxic cleaning solvents were found in the soil in and around the factory property north of Adelaide.

An independent site contamination consultant called in by Holden to check for pollution from trichloroethene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) under 40 houses next to the factory has reported that levels of the chemicals emitted as gas from the soil is “extremely low” and well below internationally accepted health guidelines.

The auditors checked for the gas in the crawl spaces under the houses to see if TCE/PCE contamination found in groundwater was leaking into the atmosphere as vapour – a potential health issue.

Holden says the result means local residents are not exposed to any unacceptable health risks.

However, testing continues around the plant as Holden and the SA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) build a more complete picture of the TCE pollution, which was discovered in groundwater 18 to 20 metres below the Elizabeth factory during an environmental audit in 2011.

Holden executive director of manufacturing Richard Phillips said the test results were welcome news for residents in the area.

“This is good and reassuring news for our neighbours and the wider community,” he said.

“We have said from the outset that the community and our employees are our number-one priority and these test results will allay any concerns.”

While Holden has initiated the environmental checks, it has stopped short of accepting the blame for the pollution.

“Holden recognises that we are only one of several industrial entities that may have caused or contributed to the contamination several decades ago, but we have stepped up to investigate and manage the matter and will continue testing,” Mr Phillips said.

TCE is an industrial chemical historically used as a metal cleaner and degreaser in industry.

Holden says it once used TCE in its manufacturing processes, but not for many years.

The EPA has advised local residents not to use bore water.

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