Toxic Truth: Work starts to remove slag from foreshore

Contaminated slag at Marmong Point. Picture: Phil Hearne

Contaminated slag at Marmong Point. Picture: Phil Hearne

LAKE Macquarie council has begun remediating a section of Marmong Point foreshore containing large quantities of exposed toxic slag from the former Boolaroo lead smelter.

The two-week project will involve the removal of the exposed contaminant and the capping of several badly eroded areas along the 100-metre stretch of waterfront.

Several large craters near the water's edge had been filled in at the end of the first day's work.

Large tracts of the shiny, black grit material was still visible behind a perimeter fence.

A Lake Macquarie council spokeswoman said the priority for the work was to address black slag below the high tide mark that has become exposed following the April super storm, as well as provide ongoing foreshore stabilisation.

"This material [slag] will be removed and placed within the foreshore reserve, above the high water mark, in an area already known to contain slag," she said.

"It will be formed into a low mound and capped and contained in line with council's existing policies and procedure."

The foreshore will then be stabilised with rock to prevent further foreshore erosion.

The spokeswoman said an external consultant would monitor the works and instruct council staff to ensure the slag had been effectively removed from shallow lake sediments below high tide. Like numerous other locations across the city, tonnes of slag were dumped on the Marmong Point foreshore in the late 1980s in an effort to stabilise the effects of mine subsidence.

The slag which is the focus of the current remediation project was exposed following the destruction of a foreshore retaining wall in the April super storm.

Research has found that heavy metals contained in lead slag can leach into the environment as well as the human body after prolonged periods of exposure.

The Environment Protection Authority says that if people do not have contact with the toxic waste and it does not leach, the slag can be safely contained under buildings and roads.