Captains Flat

In February 2020 elevated levels of lead were discovered in the disused rail corridor adjacent to the legacy Lake George Mine in Captains Flat, a small former mining town located approximately 45 kilometres southeast of Queanbeyan, NSW. The former mine operated from 1882 until 1962, producing lead, zinc, copper, pyrite, silver and gold.

Captains Flat Taskforce

The Captains Flat Lead Management Taskforce was established in January 2021 in response to the detection of elevated lead levels in the disused rail corridor adjacent to the former Lake George mine. The Captains Flat Taskforce included representatives from:

Since its commencement, the Taskforce has delivered:

  • The relocation of the Captains Flat pre-school
  • $400,000 in funding from Crown Land to QPRC for the remediation of the Foxlow Parklet
  • Mine site rehabilitation works (undertaken by Legacy Mines, MEG)
  • Re-sealing of Miners Road, Copper Creek Road and SES compound
  • Ongoing free soil and water sampling by the EPA. 

The Taskforce also commissioned surface soil testing and other data collection activities on public land in Captains Flat and commissioned specialist consultants Ramboll to produce a range of reports collectively referred to as Lead Management Plans (LMP). The aim of the LMP is to address exposure risks from lead linked to historical mining and landfill activities within the environment and the community. These documents are published below.

Lead Management Plan

The Lead Management Plan (PDF 2.97MB) presents a management plan for contamination linked to the historic metalliferous mining and land-fill activities within the community of Captains Flat. The LMP describes a process for long term environmental monitoring and evaluation of management processes and outcomes and provides strategies to minimise and manage risks from exposure to contamination associated with the former Lake George Mine site.

The Conceptual Site Model 

The Captains Flat Lead Management Plan Precinct is defined in the Conceptual Site Model and encompasses built areas of the Captains Flat community, the legacy Lake George Mine site and the Molongolo River from upstream of the water supply dam to a waterhole approximately 1.5km downstream of the mine. The precinct includes roads accessing Captains Flat (to a distance of at least 400m), the rail corridor (to a distance of 1km) and bushland areas at the perimeters of the community. The precinct was defined in this way to facilitate assessment of the degree and extent of contamination around source areas and to facilitate management of contaminant exposure risks to human health.

Abatement Options Assessment and Lead Abatement Plans

This Abatement Options Assessment (PDF 6.61MB) was developed to assess potential abatement options and inform the development of abatement plans on publicly owned land. The implementation and financing of the these abatement plans is the responsibility of the relevant landowning agency.

Standard Remediation Action Plan

This Standard Remediation Action Plan (RAP) (PDF 1.25MB) provides an alternative to preparation of site-specific RAPs for the remediation of private-land within Captains Flat, where lead contamination from historic mining or land-fill activities exists. 

The Standard RAP has been prepared to provide a streamlined approach for the assessment of soil contamination, by assuming a level of contamination based on existing information, in order to reduce the cost of the development assessment process.

For more information about the Standard RAP on private land please contact Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.

Environmental Factors, Sampling and Monitoring

The Review of Environmental Factors documents consider and address the potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed lead abatement works at six locations and the eastern embankment on public land at Captains Flat.

If you have any questions regarding any of these documents please contact the Department of Regional NSW.

Health advice

Potential health issues associated with lead exposure

Environmental advice

Everyday practices to live safely with lead.

Mine Site Rehabilitation

A brief history of Lake George Mine and rehabilitation works.

Living safely with lead

People can continue to safely visit, live and work in Captains Flat and can minimise potential exposure to lead by: 

  • Frequently washing their hands, particularly after working outdoors.
  • Regularly washing family pets and toys, including outdoor play equipment.
  • Regularly washing or wet-mopping floors, stairs and windowsills to reduce dust. 
  • Not allowing children to play in soil or dirt that may be contaminated, e.g. digging and building BMX bike jumps and tracks.
  • Using raised garden beds and covering exposed dirt with turf or mulch to prevent dust being carried by the wind. 
  • Washing fresh produce before cooking or eating.
  • Only drinking from the Captains Flat town water supply.

Questions and answers

On what date did the Taskforce first notify residents that the town had a lead contamination problem?

The Captains Flat Lead Management Taskforce was established in January 2021 in response to the detection of elevated lead levels in the disused rail corridor adjacent to the former Lake George mine. 

The community were first advised of the contamination on 29 January 2021 and the first community information sessions were held on 8 and 9 February 2021.

The Taskforce is comprised of representatives from 5 state agencies and a representative from the local council. Their remit was to:

  • coordinate an inter-agency government approach
  • deliver clear and consistent community messaging and engagement
  • develop and deliver lead management projects based on assessment of risk
  • coordinate cross-agency resources to ensure community awareness and support for living safely with lead.

The mine, rail corridor and environment

Where did the lead come from?

The Captains Flat area is naturally mineralised with lead and other metals.  This is the reason there was such significant mining in the town. The Lake George Mine produced lead, zinc, copper, pyrite, silver and gold. When mining operations commenced in the area more than 120 years ago, standards for environmental protection like dust management were very different. 

Highly mineralised soil and dust would have been spread around the mine site during its operation, and at the loading site in the rail corridor. Waste was also stockpiled on the mine site and it is not known how far soil and dust from the mine site and rail corridor may have spread.

What has the NSW Government done to manage the former mine site?

Since the mine’s closure in 1962, the NSW Government has undertaken significant work to remediate the site, including erosion control, stabilising and capping tailings, drainage improvements, removal of contaminated material and other safety works. Future works which are in the planning stage  will involve neutralising soil, capping and revegetating bare areas on the mine site, and pursuing options to treat water coming from the mine.

Is there any contamination in the rail corridor?

The Captains Flat load out area was historically used to load out ore material/product from the former mine. 

In September 2020, Transport for NSW (TfNSW) identified elevated levels of lead in the soil in the rail corridor due to these past activities.

What action has been taken on the rail corridor?

The site was reported to the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in September 2020 and declared a significantly contaminated site in April 2021. TfNSW entered into a Voluntary Management Proposal (VMP) with the EPA. The VMP outlines the management and remediation plans and timeframes.

An Interim Environmental Management Plan (IEMP) has been implemented to manage the potential risks to human health and the environment. The controls include fencing of the site to prevent access to the area and spray sealing of the Copper Creek Road crossing and road surfaces in the nearby SES compound.  The IEMP will remain in place until the site is remediated.
In April 2022, Transport completed detailed investigations to understand the extent and locations of the contamination at the site and surrounding properties. 

In November 2022 TfNSW conducted a Remediation Options Assessment (ROA) to identify and assess potential options to remediate the site.  The community was consulted on the ROA in December 2022.  The outcome of the ROA is that TfNSW has approved the remediation of the area to a level which will enable the area to be included in the Captains Flat Heritage Trail.

What will happen next for the rail corridor?

The rail corridor remediation project is in the remediation planning phase. This includes:

  • preparation of a remediation action plan
  • geotechnical survey
  • preparation of detailed design and engineering
  • development of a biodiversity management plan
  • preparation of Statement of Heritage Impact and archaeology plans
  • statutory approvals to conduct the remediation works

It is planned for these works to be completed by mid -2024, which will enable remediation works to be completed soon after.

Testing for lead

What tests have been carried out by the EPA in Captains Flat?

On 2 February 2021, the NSW EPA started testing soil from publicly owned land in Captains Flat, including the preschool, the public primary school, community hall and parks.

While elevated levels of lead in and around the site of a former lead-producing mine are not unexpected, the NSW Government has investigated levels of lead beyond the former mine site and rail corridor. Additional sampling by environmental consultants on public land around the town has informed the NSW Government to better understand the extent of contamination in Captains Flat and develop options to manage lead on public lands beyond the mine site.

The findings from this work were published in August 2023. 

What action has been taken at the public sites where elevated lead has been detected?

Further analysis of the tests taken by the EPA on public land has been carried out and the results have been shared with the landowners (i.e. Council, Crown Lands, TfNSW) to consider appropriate action. The EPA provides technical advice on managing this contamination where needed.

Can I get my property at Captains Flat tested for lead?

Yes, the EPA’s residential soil sampling program is ongoing. Private landholders and residents can contact the NSW EPA for free soil testing. The EPA is also happy to collect a rainwater tank sample if the tank is accessible. To enquire or arrange a test please contact the EPA Environment Line on 131 555. 

Landholders and residents that request soil testing on their land will be provided with a report within six weeks from testing.

Will the results be made public?

All results from the rail corridor and public lands testing by the EPA will be shared. Results from EPA testing on private properties will be shared with the landowner and resident, and with the local council and the Department of Regional NSW for specific purposes if consent is provided.

What is the NSW Government doing to address the spread of lead contamination into the town?

Remediation of the Lake George Mine has been funded by the NSW Government and remediation work is due to commence in September 2023. The aim of the work will be to treat bare areas (which correlate to contaminated areas) reducing potentially contaminated dust from spreading and ceasing erosion causing contaminated sediment to wash off the mine site.

The lead management plan identifies significant areas that have been contaminated in town and the strategies to remediate or abate the impacts from this.

It should be noted that the reason there is a mine at Captains Flat is because the area is naturally mineralised.

Personal health

How likely is it that I or someone in my family has been exposed to lead? How can I be tested?

The likelihood that a person has been exposed is dependent on several factors including the level of lead in the immediate environment (soil, water and air), activities that could increase exposure, the length of exposure and the person’s age and general health. If you are concerned about possible exposure to high levels of lead, please see your local GP to request a blood test. You can request this test to be bulk billed.

Can people live safely with lead in their community?

Yes. There are practical ways to manage potential exposure to lead in and around the home, such as washing your hands regularly, using raised garden beds and covering exposed dirt with turf or mulch to prevent dust being carried by the wind.

Information is also provided in the Managing lead around the home in Captains Flat fact sheet.

Where can I get more information around the risks associated with lead exposure and how I can manage it?


What is the raw water source for the Captains Flat water supply system?

The town’s water supply system sources raw water directly from Captains Flat Dam, an 820 ML on-stream dam on the Molonglo River. This dam is a remnant of the old mining scheme from the early 1900s. Tailing dams next to the on-stream dam, failed during the 1940s releasing highly contaminated water and sediments into the dam. Diversion pipes are now in place to minimise direct water run-off from the former mining areas into the raw water storage dam. 

How is the raw water treated?

The water treatment plant was upgraded in 2002. Raw water is treated with a coagulant to draw out dissolved metals and other impurities before passing through an ultra-filtration membrane filter. Following treatment, which includes fluoridation and disinfection at the plant, water is transferred to two reservoirs before being distributed to Captains Flat and Beverly Hills. 

How is the quality of water supplied to the town monitored?

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council carries out operational water quality monitoring of the Captains Flat water supply system every three months. In addition, verification monitoring is required by the NSW Health Drinking Water Monitoring Program, which requires the weekly collection of samples for microbial analysis and biannual sampling for chemical and physical analysis.  

How can I use the water in my rainwater tank?

Water collected in rainwater tanks varies in quality and is impacted by the management and maintenance of the associated roof catchments, which could collect dust and debris. Tank water quality can also be affected by lead-based paint used on roof surfaces and lead flashings, as well as lead–based solder in tanks and plumbing lines, pipes, water laying for extended periods in copper pipes, and other plumbing fixtures containing lead and copper.

Water from your rainwater tank should not be used for any potable purpose including drinking, brushing your teeth, food preparation, or irrigation of edible fruit or vegetables, unless you know that it is compliant with the Australian Drinking Water Guideline Values. The EPA can test your tank water while testing soil at your property, or alternative testing advice can be provided by NSW Health.

The Captains Flat Town Water Supply remains the most reliable source of good quality drinking water because it is treated and regularly monitored for compliance with the Drinking Water Guidelines.

Further advice on rainwater tank water quality and tank maintenance is available from NSW Health. Alternatively, you can contact the Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 and ask to speak with an Environmental Health Officer.

The water in my rainwater tank was tested and exceeds Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. What can I do with water?

Water from your rainwater tank should not be used for any potable purpose including drinking, brushing your teeth, food preparation, or irrigation of edible fruit or vegetables.

Poultry and other animals should not be given this water for drinking or be provided grass cuttings as forage from lawn that has been watered with this tank water. 

Water in your tank can still safely be used to irrigate non–edible gardens and lawns and hose down hard surfaces including pathways and driveways.

I have a bore on my property. What does this mean for my bore water supply?

NSW Health recommends that groundwater (bore water) is not used for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene (including cleaning teeth and bathing) without testing and appropriate treatment including disinfection. In this regard, it is also recommended that you do not use your bore to top up your rainwater tank, irrigate fruit or vegetables, or use in swimming pools or spas without testing. 

Groundwater users should be familiar with the quality of their water. This can be done by testing the microbiological, chemical and radiological quality of the water. Water should meet water quality guidelines in order to protect your family’s health and your animals’ health where being used for stock and domestic animal purposes. Refer to private water supply testing service and DPI Water quality and testing for more information on water quality and treatment. 

Further advice on groundwater quality is also available from NSW Health. Alternatively, you can contact the Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 and ask to speak with an Environmental Health Officer. 

Is it safe to swim in the Molonglo River?

Recreational water quality is not consistently monitored in the Molonglo River. In addition to potential variation of water quality from mine seepage, quality can vary dependent upon agricultural activity within the catchment, drought and weather patterns including intense periods of rainfall. Swimming is not recommended after heavy rainfall.

Swimming may result in swallowing water or contaminated sand or sediment, either intentionally or unintentionally. Due to the dilution of heavy metals or chemicals, it is unlikely that recreational water users will come into contact with concentrations high enough to cause adverse effects following a single exposure. Continued exposure is unlikely to result in adverse effects at the concentrations in recreational water, and with the exposure patterns of most recreational water users. In terms of any risk associated with lead contamination, it is important to note that lead is not readily absorbed through the skin.

If swimming in the Molonglo River results in an adverse health impact, please consult your doctor for further advice. 


We have chickens. Are their eggs safe to consume?

In general, poultry foraging in lead contaminated soils may swallow enough lead to cause their eggs to become contaminated with lead and may become unsuitable for consumption. To prevent contamination: 

  • Poultry should not be allowed to range freely through the yard where lead is suspected/proven. 
  • Poultry can be housed on a concrete or bitumen floor with 150mm layer of straw, wood shavings or hull. 
  • Visibly dirty eggs may be wiped with a damp cloth.
Could lead exposure be a problem for my livestock?

Food producing animals exposed to lead may have levels of lead residue potentially harmful to human health in the meat, liver, kidney, milk and eggs that they produce, without showing signs of illness.  

How can I find out if my livestock have been exposed to lead?

If you own food-producing animals and are concerned they may be affected by lead, please contact the Braidwood Local Land Services office for assessment and potential testing of at-risk livestock at 42 Ryrie Street, Braidwood (8:30am-4:30pm), by calling 4842 3800 or  completing the online customer enquiry form

We have pets. Are they safe in our yard or do they need to be rehomed? They dig the dirt and eat the grass.

Dust from the contaminated soil may contain lead particles and could be brought into the house on your shoes or your pet’s feet. To reduce potential exposure to lead, pets should be washed regularly, and you should wash your hands with soap and water after touching your pets. Washing or wet-mopping floors, stairs and windowsills will help reduce your exposure to dust from your pets.

How do I know if my pet/s have been exposed to lead?

If you are concerned about your pet, contact your private veterinary practitioner for advice. 


What happens next?

Now that the Taskforce has delivered the Lead Management Plan and associated abatement plans it has completed the work it was established to deliver. The implementation of the recommendations now resides with the relevant landowning agency.

If my property tests positive for contamination will this affect the value?

Test results are not intended to be used to establish a property’s contaminated land status for the purposes of sale of land. The focus of the EPA’s precautionary testing is to help inform interested residents about any potential risk of elevated lead levels on their property.

Can lead contamination get into fruit and vegetables from contaminated soil and water?

Plants do not readily absorb lead, but the amount they do absorb depends on the species and the variety of plant, the chemical composition of the soil, the amount of lead in the soil and the soil temperature. Leafy vegetables and herbs tend to accumulate more lead compared to fruiting vegetables.  If you are worried about this, the EPA can test the soil at your property to see if there are elevated lead levels.

Water from your rainwater tank should not be used for any potable purpose including irrigation of edible fruit or vegetables, unless you know that it is compliant with the Australian Drinking Water Guideline Values. The EPA can test your tank water while testing soil at your property, or alternative testing advice can be provided by NSW Health. 

Further advice can be provided by contacting the Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055. Please ask to speak with an Environmental Health Officer. 

Information is also provided in the Managing lead around the home in Captains Flat fact sheet

How are you managing my privacy?  

We are managing private information in accordance with the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 and the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002. Personal information including contact information, the outcome of private property testing, and blood test results will not be disclosed without consent.  

Who can I speak to if I’m worried about this?

If you find the awareness of this precautionary approach to managing lead in the community is contributing to additional concern in your life, there are things you can do to take care of yourself and your mental health. If you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s mental health you can call the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 for advice. If you or someone else is in immediate danger call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

You can also consult your GP for advice, to discuss a Mental Health Treatment Plan or request referral to specialised mental health clinicians and services, including social workers, mental health nurses, psychologists or psychiatrists.

Further assistance can also be sought from online counselling and information services including Beyond Blue, Headspace and Kids Helpline. You can also contact your local Rural Adversity Mental Health Program Coordinator, Judy Carmody on 0417 131 301, who can provide advice on appropriate services and resources in your local area.

Contacting us

If you would like to receive updates by email or have other questions please contact the Department of Regional NSW.

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