IT has been 458 days since the semi-rural communities of Williamtown, Salt Ash, Fullerton Cove and surrounding suburbs were advised that the Department of Defence had polluted their homes, land and water.
As the contamination spreads, the federal government’s understanding of the chemicals continues to be stymied by its attitude – contemptuousness and ill informed.
In regards to the former, we cannot initiate wholesale positive changes at a subconscious level into the minds of those whom we inherently rely on to protect and defend us, but we can provide some salient facts for them to consider the next time the issue of that annoying problem up in Williamtown raises its head.
Marise Payne is our federal Defence Minister.
Despite numerous pre-election promises and requests she is yet to come and say G’day. Maybe the following points are really directed to her?
The federal government of Australia did this to us and they have to fix it.
There are over 600 families affected by your actions.
We are no different to other Aussie families.
We love this great country of ours.
Many of our grandparents and great grandparents fought and died protecting this country.
You have not stopped the chemicals leaving the RAAF base via the numerous drains which flow onto our properties.
The 2 chemicals you let spill into our waterways and environment have a half life in water of centuries and stay in the human body for around 7 years.
You knew they were dangerous for years and decided not to tell your neighbours.
We cannot use our water, grow vegetable gardens, allow our kids to play in the dirt, or have chooks out the back.
We have families that have been bathing, washing and brushing their teeth with bottled water now for over 12 months.
It is like we are at war with our own government.
Our kids are now getting poisoned.
Banks won’t lend us money.
Our properties are worthless.
We have asked time and time again for the Government to compensate us and get us out of here and you ignore us.
We have now been forced by you, our government, to start proceedings in court – why should we have to take our own government to court and pay for that privilege?
Families are at breaking strain, our kids ask questions every night, they scream and cry when we take them to get a needle stuck in their tiny arms while the nurse draws blood.
Several families have abandoned their homes to protect their loved ones. Families paying both mortgages and rent as they refuse to look back in twenty years time wishing they had done more.
Others have to stay, they don't have a choice but to live with the anguish of the unknown, to have a constant background level of stress and anxiety, because our government is protecting their departments rather than their people.
Comprehensive studies are imperative, history is littered with governments hindsight.
Right now the government can implement change, it will take a paradigm shift from the current policy, but it can be done, the local residents deserve a future, a future with air monitoring, regular health screenings and a long term epidemiological study.
Until now you have chosen to openly ignore world leading experts on these chemicals.
As a result, this means that Australia is now effectively two steps behind the rest of the world because:
1. Australia has still not set any national guidance values; and
2. Whilst the US EPA has lowered substantially the health advisory values, we raised ours to 78 times that of the US.
Finally, the Department of Defence has a pretty sweet deal when it comes to the issue of clean-up and remediation.
As the NSW EPA has no jurisdiction to regulate contamination events on federally controlled land – sadly the polluter has been allowed to dictate the terms of its own clean-up operation.
To the resident’s of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the elsewhere in the Hunter, we are families just like you.
We live just up the road in beautiful Port Stephens.
The next time you are driving along Nelson Bay Road, Cabbage Tree Road or Fullerton Cove Road, give us a toot and a wave and say G’day.
We need all the help we can get – particularly coming up to our second Christmas living in this hell.
Oh, and Marise and Malcolm, pop in and say G’day one day – we would love to have a chat.
Families are at breaking strain, our kids ask questions every night, they scream and cry when we take them to get a needle stuck in their tiny arms while the nurse draws blood. Several families have abandoned their homes to protect their loved ones. Families paying both mortgages and rent as they refuse to look back in twenty years time wishing they had done more.