Toxic Truth: We won’t back down

ACTION GROUP:  Stan Kiaos outside his Boolaroo store. 
 Picture:  Ryan  Osland
ACTION GROUP: Stan Kiaos outside his Boolaroo store. Picture: Ryan Osland

 A LAKE Macquarie City Council officer allegedly made a ‘‘veiled threat’’ to Boolaroo businessman Stan Kiaos over the Pasminco pollution scandal.

The man allegedly came into Mr Kiaos’s army disposal store on a weekend, identified himself as a council officer and lectured him.

The officer allegedly said the council could charge people ‘‘$50,000 plus’’ to remediate their properties.

‘‘I considered it a veiled threat that the council charge us all $50,000, if we don’t shut up,’’ Mr Kiaos, a Boolaroo Action Group member, said.

A council statement said ‘‘there has been no such approach’’.

Mr Kiaos said the incident happened on Saturday, December 7.

He made public the details on Friday, saying the action group would not be intimidated or bullied by bureaucrats or politicians who think they can weasel and spin their way out of taking responsibility to fix the area’s pollution problems.

Mother-of-five Kate Black submitted a development application to the council in 2013 to rebuild her family home in Boolaroo, which was burnt down.

The council hit Ms Black with remediation requirements for the site, which she said would have cost up to $50,000.

She said the $50,000 would have covered reports, consultants and contaminated-soil removal.

Dumping the soil would have cost even more, she said.

Council staff did not tell her where she could dump the soil.

She tried to dump it at the Pasminco containment cell but was told it was closed, although politicians arranged for ‘‘a four-week opening to dump it’’.

The Environmental Protection Authority, however, told the Herald on Thursday that ‘‘the Pasminco cell remains open to receive lead contaminated soil from local residential properties’’.

The EPA was ‘‘working on cost-effective options for lead-impacted soil disposal,’’ after the Pasminco containment cell closes early next year.

A council June 2013 document said Ms Black ‘‘will need to engage a qualified and experienced contaminated land consultant to carry out a contaminated land investigation to determine the average lead levels within the soil’’.

The council recommended conditions for development approval to include a ‘‘Contaminated Land Remediation Action Plan’’.

Ms Black ended up selling the property because she considered the remediation costs to be too high.

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said residents whose properties were affected by lead contamination should not have to ‘‘bear the substantial costs involved in disposing of tainted soil’’.

The EPA said the cost to remediate residential sites would ‘‘vary depending on the scale of the development, lead concentrations and management options’’.

Environment Minister Rob Stokes said a working group would examine options to ‘‘protect the vulnerable from excessive personal cost’’.

Mr Kiaos said no resident should have to pay to clean up Pasminco pollution on their properties, regardless of whether they were vulnerable.

The council said development applications for sites with contamination higher than health-based investigation levels must include a ‘‘detailed site investigation report’’.

‘‘That report will make recommendations on whether remediation is required or on-site management is possible,’’ the council statement said.

Macquarie University research has found many sites in the area have soil pollution above investigation levels.

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