Town vents fury over toxic waste "debacle"

ANGER: Boolaroo resident Mark Hambier is frustrated by authorities' lack of action on where he can dump lead-contaminated soil from his yard. Picture: Marina Neil
ANGER: Boolaroo resident Mark Hambier is frustrated by authorities' lack of action on where he can dump lead-contaminated soil from his yard. Picture: Marina Neil

COMMUNITY activists say they predicted more than two years ago a “strong probability” of a “major debacle” over authorities’ “inaction” on lead contamination in north Lake Macquarie.

Boolaroo Action Group spokesman Jim Sullivan said the community was “fed up with bureaucratic bungling” and “finger pointing” from politicians, the Environment Protection Authority, Lake Macquarie City Council and the state government.

Mr Sullivan was responding to a Fairfax Media report on Tuesday detailing how residents still have no place to dump lead-contaminated soil in the Hunter.

Boolaroo resident Mark Hambier has tonnes of contaminated dirt sitting uncovered in his yard after Newcastle City Council refused to accept it at Summerhill tip.

Mr Hambier’s renovation and subdivision works have been hampered by delays since the EPA announced last year that residents would be able to take lead-laden soil to Summerhill in February, then August and now some time in October.

Mr Sullivan said the community asked for three things from the eight-member North Lake Macquarie Community Lead Reference Group when it was established in early 2015.

“We wanted blood testing of children, a future fund to deal with the pollution and a place to dump contaminated soil,” he said.

“We got the blood testing and that was it. Now it’s down to all of the authorities pointing fingers at each other and no-one wants to accept responsibility.”

Long-term Boolaroo resident and action group member Allan Craig said he was at a loss to explain why it was “so hard” to get things right.

“It’s crazy, just crazy the mess residents have been left in,” he said.

“Pasminco left this mess and now residents are burdened with having to clean it up and pay for the privilege.”

Residents were able to dump lead-contaminated soil free in a containment cell on the former Pasminco Cockle Creek smelter site. 

It was capped in 2015, leaving residents with nowhere in the Hunter to take the toxic dirt.

Do you know more? donna.page@fairfaxmedia.com.au