Public meeting after residents demand action on Boolaroo contamination

TOXIC: Jim Sullivan, from the Boolaroo Action Group, with lead slag on the Lake Macquarie foreshore at Speers Point. “Our homes and land were contaminated by a government-regulated industry,” he said.
TOXIC: Jim Sullivan, from the Boolaroo Action Group, with lead slag on the Lake Macquarie foreshore at Speers Point. “Our homes and land were contaminated by a government-regulated industry,” he said.

RESIDENTS are demanding to know how much of the state government’s promised $23 million investment to improve the handling of contaminated NSW land will be spent in north Lake Macquarie.

Boolaroo Action Group spokesman Jim Sullivan said while he welcomed last week’s announcement that the government would invest $6 million per annum for the next four years to improve how contamination was managed, the community wanted more detail on where the money was going.

“I don’t want to be ungracious about the government spending money, but we targeted that amount for Boolaroo alone and they made it for the whole state,” Mr Sullivan said.

“We’re concerned that Boolaroo will not see a cent of this money.”

The funding boost equates to a 3.5 per cent increase in the Environment Protection Authority’s 2016-17 annual budget, which was $167 million.

It has not been announced how or where any of the money will be spent.

The residents’ group called on the Lake Macquarie Lead Community Reference Group, chaired by independent MP Greg Piper, to hold a public meeting to discuss funding options. 

Mr Piper said a meeting would be held at Boolaroo Public School on Tuesday, November 28, from 6pm.

He said the community reference group term finished in December and it had an “obligation” to report back to the community.

“I’m pretty sure Lake Macquarie is going to be able to get some good assistance,” Mr Piper said, but added that sound plan was needed: “We really need to formulate a plan so the community can tap into these funds.”  

Priority areas for the government include clearing the backlog of contaminated sites, targeting illegal waste disposal and improving management of large scale emergency clean-up and abandoned sites.

Mr Sullivan said north Lake Macquarie residents started the push for increased funding for contamination following 106 years of pollution from the former Pasminco lead and zinc smelter at Cockle Creek. When the smelter closed in 2003, toxic pollution was left across large parts of Boolaroo, Argenton and Speers Point.

Mr Sullivan said the government needed to take responsibility for the pollution and act to help residents with the costly clean up.

“Our homes and land were contaminated by a government-regulated industry,” Mr Sullivan said. “The government continued to increase the smelter’s licence knowing that it was polluting people’s land and now we want them to take responsibility and actually do something to help residents burdened with the costly clean up.”

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