Toxic Truth: Group talking action

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Boolaroo Action Group member Jim Sullivan

Boolaroo Action Group member Jim Sullivan

BOOLAROO residents are taking legal advice about the possibility of suing the state government for the environmental, social and economic damages resulting from the town’s former lead smelter.

The option is one of several that will be discussed at a community meeting to be held late next month amid widespread concerns about the smelter’s legacy.

‘‘Legal action is certainly one of the options that we are considering; residents should not be paying to clean-up their properties or paying medical expenses for state-sponsored pollution,’’ Boolaroo Action Group member Jim Sullivan said on Wednesday.

A Newcastle Herald-Macquarie University investigation has revealed many homes and public areas are still contaminated with high levels of lead pollution.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority announced the establishment of an expert working group late last year in response to concerns raised by the Herald’s investigation.

The group consists of individuals with expertise in lead contamination and environmental health, but not a community representative. 

The action group says this is a major deficiency of the expert group.

It has rejected a newly-announced community reference group model designed to facilitate community engagement with the expert group.

‘‘We want a member on that [expert] group to give the community honest and factual feedback about what is happening,’’ Mr Sullivan said.

‘‘We’ve been down  this path before.

‘‘This is another ploy to make people feel like part of the decision-making process but they are not.

‘‘There have been three expert groups set up since 1992. None of them has achieved anything.’’

But  Environment Protection Authority Hunter Region manager Adam Gilligan said the community reference group model would provide greater opportunities for community engagement than by having a single member on the expert panel.

‘‘This will allow a broad range of representatives to collaborate with the expert panel,’’ Mr Gilligan said.

‘‘There will be opportunities for community, school and business representatives and possibly [Pasminco administrators] Ferrier Hodgson to become involved.’’

The  Environment Protection Authority is finalising the reference group’s terms of reference and will appoint a chairperson. 

Community representative nominations are expected to be sought in coming weeks. 

Minutes of the group’s meetings will be available on the EPA website. 

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