TOXIC TRUTH: Chance to air your thoughts on lead contamination

FRONTING: EPA chief executive Barry Buffier.
FRONTING: EPA chief executive Barry Buffier.

THE NSW Environment Protection Authority’s top official will attend a public meeting on Wednesday to examine the Pasminco pollution problem in Lake Macquarie.

EPA chief executive and chairman Barry Buffier plans to attend the meeting at Club Macquarie, Argenton, which starts at 7.30pm.

Boolaroo Action Group is holding the meeting to discuss a joint Newcastle Herald-Macquarie University investigation that exposed the failure of authorities to ensure the pollution was cleaned up.

The investigation revealed dangerously high levels of lead contamination and toxic black slag remain across the city.

Macquarie University Professor Mark Patrick Taylor, who will speak at the meeting, found the state-sanctioned lead abatement strategy was a failure. This strategy was meant to deal with pollution in Boolaroo, Speers Point and Argenton.

Also speaking at the meeting will be Macquarie University researcher Anthony Morrison, who found dangerous metals from black slag were leaching into waterways and land across Lake Macquarie.

The slag – a Pasminco byproduct – was spread across large areas of Lake Macquarie and other areas in the Hunter over decades, posing a serious public health threat, Mr Morrison said. As previously reported, Lake Macquarie City Council’s top officials said they could not attend the meeting.

Action group spokesman Jim Sullivan, who accused the council of being in denial over the problem, said it was a ‘‘positive thing’’ that Mr Buffier would attend.

‘‘It shows the seriousness in which the EPA sees this problem, but we’re not going to take the pressure off them,’’ Mr Sullivan said. 

Mr Sullivan said the EPA had broken a promise made in 2011 to establish a way to dispose of contaminated soil.

‘‘We don’t want two years of procrastination on this,’’ Mr Sullivan said, referring to committees the EPA had established on the matter.

An EPA statement said Mr Buffier was planning to attend the meeting, along with EPA Hunter Region manager Adam Gilligan. 

‘‘Mr Buffier is keen to hear first-hand from community members about their concerns,’’ the statement said.

Mr Buffier will provide feedback on the EPA’s ‘‘commitment to a transparent process’’ regarding the committees – the Lead Expert Working Group and Lead Community Reference Group.

The statement said the EPA was committed to ‘‘finding a better solution to issues surrounding the disposal of soil’’.