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09 - Fremantle Knutsford Block

Fremantle Knutsford Block

It’s the usual crap when you try and find history on some places where it’s almost non-existent and funny enough, if it involves the Government, especially like the Commonwealth Government or Department of Defence, wasted hours go by with fruitless results to show for it.


So the Knutsford Block on the corner of Amherst Street in Fremantle, once contained four petroleum distillate fuel oil storage tanks with a capacity of 48,400kl. They were built in 1947 or earlier and were linked to the fuel storage tanks in Bracks Street, North Fremantle, via an inter-connected pipeline. The Knutsford Block appears to have been known as the Knutsford Street Distillate Storage Facility, although a few other brief one-liner sources refer to it as a Depot, in lieu of a Facility. This being said due to results of one source most likely being found with a preferential term over the other.


The State Government had been proposing the idea for fuel storage tanks to be built in North Fremantle between 1937 and 1939 and it appears that they may have started with four in that location too. It’s hard to tell how many, by 1947, were solely for the use of the Commonwealth Government but it appears at one point (later in time at least), they may have had as many as nine tanks.


It’s hard to say whether or not this had been the case for decades or just from the mid-90s, it appears that the tanks were being leased by Caltex from the Commonwealth Government. Specifically, the Royal Australian Navy, who were responsible for the tanks although they certainly didn’t appear to be so forthcoming with responsibility when the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) were requesting to address levels of contamination from the site that had exceeded the EPA’s current risk criterion.


As a result, the EPA intended to resolve the risk issue after consultation with the City of Fremantle and Department of Mines, seemingly with or without the Navy’s participation.


Perhaps this is a further reason why very limited information is available on this site, since it was cleared in 2005. Whatever contamination has existed throughout these years (oils, heavy metals and chemicals, as well as its extent), whether or not remediation had taken place (or perhaps the intention was to wait for nature to take its course and rid of most of the contamination through to the groundwater and then worry about it then), it’s difficult to tell.

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