Hamilton gasworks remediation explained after years of contamination

Playground: Dominique and Corinne Frost who lived at the former Hamilton gasworks as children, when the industrial site was "our playground". It was "appalling" the site was left unremediated for decades, they said.
Playground: Dominique and Corinne Frost who lived at the former Hamilton gasworks as children, when the industrial site was "our playground". It was "appalling" the site was left unremediated for decades, they said.

ENERGY company Jemena will host a community information session on remediation of highly contaminated former Hamilton gasworks land after state and local government departments questioned the company about long-term liability for the site.

Jemena proposed excavating 3700 cubic metres of highly contaminated material from the Clyde Street site and building a 500-metre long groundwater barrier to a depth of nine metres below ground level, in applications to the Department of Planning and NSW Environment Protection Authority.

The Department of Planning said an environmental impact statement linked to the remediation needed to ensure “there are no on-going risks to human health on and off site”. It also had to detail liability for on-going management.

In a letter lodged with the department, Newcastle City Council called on Jemena to remediate the site “to the level of the most sensitive potential land use under the zone with the least amount of restrictions as possible”.

This would ensure “future development options are not overly limited and regulators will not be overly burdened with development and on-going management requirements”.

The council told the department on-going contamination management plans needed to be legally enforceable.

“If land is subdivided/developed/has new ownership in the future, how will this requirement be managed? If a future developer/landowner damages or is required to maintain or repair the barrier wall and pollution occurs, who will have responsibility for this?” the council said.

In 2016, Jemena said remediation of the seven-hectare Hamilton site, which operated as a gasworks from 1913 to 1985, would cost tens of millions of dollars. During its history the gasworks produced coal-gas by heating coal on the site and burying tonnes of heavily contaminated residue.

The community information session runs from 3pm-8pm on Wednesday at Lambton Bowling Club.

“This session will provide information about the current work and upcoming remediation activities,” a Jemena spokesperson said.

In 2015 two women who lived on the gasworks site as children said it was appalling that former owner AGL and the NSW Government had allowed the site to remain contaminated and unremediated for decades.

‘‘The gasworks site was our playground. We used to play around the tar pit and in the coal piles,’’ said Dominique Frost, whose father was a chemical engineer and then site manager, and whose family lived in an AGL-owned house on the site between 1954 and 1973.