Toxic Truth: Pollution test results will be made public

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THE Environment Protection Authority has promised to make public the results of soil testing it carried out to determine pollution levels in north Lake Macquarie.

A spokeswoman said ‘‘preliminary’’ results were being examined to determine an ‘‘appropriate waste classification’’ for the toxic soil.

In what is being described by residents as a ‘‘first step’’ in what they hope will be a clean-up process, the EPA is working to identify a tip for the contaminated soil.

‘‘These results will be made available to the lead expert working group and to the community when the analysis is complete,’’ the spokeswoman said.

The tests were carried out in response to a joint Newcastle Herald-Macquarie University investigation late last year that revealed dangerously high levels of lead, arsenic and other poisons are still present in large areas of Boolaroo, Speers Point and Argenton.

The results came just two years after the completion of the Lead Abatement Strategy – approved by the NSW government – designed to protect residents from 100 years of pollution produced by the former Pasminco lead and zinc smelter at Cockle Creek.

Pasminco collapsed under a mountain of debt in 2001 and is being run by administrator Ferrier Hodgson.

The Herald’s Toxic Truth series prompted the formation of an expert working group to review the effectiveness of the clean-up program.

Residents are campaigning for a future fund to help remediate their land.

The spokeswoman said the regulator was ‘‘hoping’’ to have a dumping site identified for soil by the end of April.

‘‘The EPA is continuing to work with landfill operators to identify suitable alternative sites for disposal of lead-affected soil and slag now that the Pasminco waste cell has been closed,’’ she said.

‘‘The EPA will  provide further advice for residents in north Lake Macquarie about the options for removal and disposal of lead slag contaminated soil as soon as possible.’’