Baird to meet residents over RAAF water contamination

Residents at the public meeting at Stockton RSL on Wednesday about Williamtown RAAF base contamination of local water. Pic: Simone De Peak
Residents at the public meeting at Stockton RSL on Wednesday about Williamtown RAAF base contamination of local water. Pic: Simone De Peak

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PREMIER Mike Baird will meet residents worried about toxic chemicals from the RAAF Williamtown base, as the federal government is being urged to  provide financial support to affected fishers and oyster farmers.

Mr Baird has agreed to meet  Williamtown businessman Des Maslen, who pressed for an opportunity to speak with the Premier during Wednesday’s fiery public meeting with authorities about the contamination.

The state government will also establish a community consultation group to ensure residents are kept informed, Hunter parliamentary secretary Scot MacDonald said.

Mr MacDonald texted Mr Baird from the public meeting to advise him of level of community concern and anger, before briefing him on Thursday.

‘‘He gets it, that’s why we’re setting up this group to ensure people can get the answers they need,’’ Mr MacDonald said.

Mr Maslen lives at Medowie but recently moved from a Williamtown property that he still owns, and wants to know if water from nearby drains and his bore water was contaminated with the chemicals PFOA and PFOS, from a now-banned fire fighting foam used at the base.

‘‘We’ve got a dam down the back that my kids used to swim in,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t trust the guys that were there [at the meeting] the other night trying to tell us it’s OK – I want to get the answers and in plain English.’’

Mr Baird’s office said: “The Premier is keen to discuss this matter with community members in the near future.’’

Cain or Rhianna Gorfine, of the Williamtown and Surrounds Residents Action Group, are expected to accompany Mr Maslen, with the meeting to potentially to take place next week.

The couple have their own concerns about their daughter, 3, attending the RAAF Williamtown child care centre, given soil, surface water and groundwater contamination found on the base.

Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon said she and federal Labor’s defence spokesman Stephen Conroy met  Defence officials in Canberra on Tuesday.

She had since written to Defence minister Kevin Andrews, asking him to urgently consider the position of oyster farmers and commercial fishers and the need for ‘‘adequate compensation for those people who have very legitimate concerns about the financial viability of their businesses and/or at risk of defaulting on mortgages’’.

State agencies have suspended fishing in the area for at least a month, pending test results.

‘‘We do not want people, through no fault of their own, put in that kind of financial vulnerability,’’ Ms Claydon said.

The federal government did not respond to inquiries on Friday.