Toxic Truth: Baird will hear concerns over Pasminco legacy

QUESTIONS: Mike Baird and Greg Piper in Newcastle.  Picture: Simone De Peak
QUESTIONS: Mike Baird and Greg Piper in Newcastle. Picture: Simone De Peak

NSW Premier Mike Baird has promised to act “if we need to” over the alleged failure of a state-sanctioned clean-up of polluted residential properties in north Lake Macquarie.

Mr Baird met Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper and residents at Wyee on Thursday to discuss a long-awaited $26million project to connect the town to a sewerage system. 

As for Boolaroo, Argenton and Speers Point residents, they hope the government does not leave them in the poo.

Boolaroo Action Group spokesman Jim Sullivan had a question for Mr Baird, which the Newcastle Herald asked.

“We know a Labor government approved this mess and that you never created the problem,” Mr Sullivan said.

‘‘But will you support a future fund for residents [to deal with the Pasminco pollution legacy]?”

Mr Baird said: “I can’t promise anything on the spot, but I can promise to listen and understand in detail.’’

Mr Piper said: “Discussions about a future fund are quite reasonable”.

Residents assert the government-approved Lead Abatement Strategy – created to deal with contamination on their properties – was a disgrace and sham.

Macquarie University’s Professor Mark Patrick Taylor conducted soil tests in the area, which revealed high levels of contaminants remained in people’s properties.

Professor Taylor said the “failure to clean up properly” had left a “legacy of environmental contamination”.

He said this included ‘‘neurotoxic dusts – arsenic, cadmium and lead among others – that will continue to debilitate the community’’.

Mr Baird said there were “a lot of issues and concerns”, which the Environmental Protection Authority was “considering in detail, as they should”.

“If we need to act, we will,” he said.

The action group is disgusted that residents have been left with costs of up to $80,000 to deal with the pollution, if they want to redevelop their properties.

Some residents want their properties cleaned up properly, whether they redevelop or not.

Mr Piper, who last week called for a review of the abatement strategy, said: “This is such a big issue and a lot of the things being alleged have to be taken very seriously.

“I’m not convinced yet that what’s been said is necessarily the facts.

“I want to speak to Professor Mark Taylor.

“We also need to rely on the experts with the EPA.”

Mr Piper said he had a meeting next week with EPA chief executive Barry Buffier.

“I’ve asked them to perhaps look at bringing in somebody who’s a third party, who can credibly look at this objectively,” Mr Piper said.

“We don’t want to leave a legacy where children are being exposed to a risk of having elevated blood-lead levels.”

Mr Piper added: “If there’s something that has to be done, then I’ll be in there fighting to get it done.”

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