Toxic Truth: Residents not aware of contamination

WORRIED: Residents Liz Taylor and Yoan Reed at Eleebana.  Picture: Phil Hearne
WORRIED: Residents Liz Taylor and Yoan Reed at Eleebana. Picture: Phil Hearne

TOXIC black slag has leached on to the Eleebana shore, but some residents are not aware of it.

 No warning signs have been erected in the area.

Slag contains high levels of lead and other heavy metals, which scientists say pose serious health risks.

Yoan Reed, who owns a house in the area, said she was very concerned  about the problem and authorities should ‘‘consult people who live here’’ about what should be done to deal with it.

‘‘We eat the fish here,’’ Ms Reed said, adding they could be contaminated. ‘‘This is a more pressing issue than a shark in the lake.’’

Ms Reed’s teenage son,  Teis Reed, said he got slag on his hands without knowing what it was.

‘‘I see it a lot – it’d be quite easy for little kids to get it on their hands,’’ he said.

Ms Reed’s friend, Liz Taylor, said lead was an ‘‘insidious’’ poison.

‘‘I would be concerned about children being exposed to it,’’ Ms Taylor said.

Guy Taylor said ‘‘if people don’t know about it, it’s a problem’’.

‘‘People should at least know about it.’’

Young children are most at risk of getting lead in their blood, because of hand-to-mouth behaviour.

Elevated blood-lead levels in young children cause problems that include  damage to the brain and nervous system, and intellectual impairment.

In adults, lead poisoning can cause reproductive problems, nerve damage and impaired hearing and vision. Macquarie University researcher Anthony Morrison said he had  made two previous applications to the NSW government’s Environmental Trust for grants to study black slag, but they were rejected.

The state government has given only $20,000 over  20 years to Lake Macquarie council to deal with black slag.

Opposition environment spokesman and would-be Labor leader Luke Foley said the NSW Environmental Trust had a $100million budget this year ‘‘to fund environmental initiatives in this state’’.

‘‘Surely a lot more can be done, given the resources that are available,’’ Mr Foley said. ‘‘This shouldn’t be left to a local council.’’

The NSW Environment Protection Authority said it would reconsider how to deal with slag in an expert working group set up in response to the Herald’s Toxic Truth series.

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