Toxic Truth: Attempt to get more help for community

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LAKE Macquarie City Council said on Monday it aimed to get a better deal for the community in dealing with lead contamination of residential properties around the former Pasminco smelter.

The council has faced criticism for encouraging residents to participate in the strategy, despite having serious concerns about it.

Deputy mayor Wendy Harrison said the council believed ‘‘a long-term approach is needed to support the community’’.

‘‘If we can influence a better result for the community, we’ll be doing everything we can to achieve that,’’ she said.

The deputy mayor met Pasminco administrator Ferrier Hodgson on Monday to discuss its heavily criticised ‘‘Lead Abatement Strategy’’, which was meant to deal with lead pollution in residential properties in Boolaroo, Speers Point and Argenton.

She stood in for mayor Jodie Harrison, who was unwell.

Boolaroo Action Group member Stan Kiaos said residents believed the council was recommending the abatement strategy when it sent them a letter in June 2010.

‘‘Council encourages all residents who receive a letter from Ferrier Hodgson to register an interest in the [abatement strategy],’’ the letter said.

As previously reported, Macquarie University Professor Mark Patrick Taylor said the abatement strategy had failed, with soil tests revealing high levels of contaminants remained. 

Residents were made to sign a waiver to participate in the strategy, in which they agreed not to make any claim against Pasminco.

Wendy Harrison said Ferrier Hodgson told her it had ‘‘met all its obligations’’’ under the abatement strategy.

‘‘They were willing to discuss the potential to do more for the community,’’ she said.

‘‘I understand their capacity is limited due to their obligation to creditors.’’

Ferrier Hodgson declined to comment.

The council reiterated to Ferrier Hodgson its concerns about the abatement strategy, including that it did not remove contaminated soil, included only residential land and used a less than comprehensive testing method.

Additionally, it proposed no action to deal with black slag or determine a place for ongoing disposal of contaminants.

The council did previously raise such concerns with the state government in 2007, but was criticised in 2010 for failing to inform the community about this.

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