Slag off: Mess to be fixed

Black slurry ash from Pasminco has been uncovered by erosion on the shores of Lake Macquarie at Marmong Point. Pic: Max Mason-Hubers
Black slurry ash from Pasminco has been uncovered by erosion on the shores of Lake Macquarie at Marmong Point. Pic: Max Mason-Hubers

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AUTHORITIES have committed to cleaning up toxic lead waste revealed by the Herald to be leaching into Lake Macquarie at Marmong Point.

Wild weather caused the collapse of a foreshore retaining wall, exposing a 100-metre toxic waste pile, known as black slag, which was a Pasminco lead smelting byproduct.

The Herald revealed in June months of government inaction after the contamination was exposed in the April storm.

Lake Macquarie City Council confirmed on Tuesday it was working with the Environment Protection Authority on a plan to clean up the mess. A spokeswoman said the council had applied for NSW government funding for the works under storm damage cost recovery. She said work would start as soon as possible once a final plan had been agreed on with the EPA.

‘‘Council has recently received approval from the NSW Fisheries and Crown Lands departments to carry out proposed foreshore stabilisation works and is currently consulting with the NSW EPA about the proposal,’’ a spokeswoman said.

‘‘The proposal involves removing exposure to black slag by capping and containing it in order to protect the area from further erosion.’’

Residents and Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper have called on authorities to clean up the pollution – not cover it up.

Mr Piper is chairman of the Lead Community Reference Group, which the EPA formed to consider Pasminco pollution in response to the Herald’s Toxic Truth series.

‘‘Where it’s been exposed, it would be good management practice to remove a reasonable amount of it,’’ he said.

Research has found that heavy metals in slag – including lead – leach into the environment and can be absorbed into the body, potentially exposing people to health problems.

The Herald revealed in December that Pasminco knew as far back as 1992 that black slag was leaching heavy metals, but it kept the information secret from authorities.