TOXIC TRUTH: Council to skip pollution forum

TIME FOR ACTION: Jim Sullivan says the  health risks are serious.  Picture: Ryan Osland
TIME FOR ACTION: Jim Sullivan says the health risks are serious. Picture: Ryan Osland

LAKE Macquarie City Council has been accused of boycotting a public meeting to be held on Wednesday to examine the Pasminco pollution problem.

Boolaroo Action Group invited officials including the council’s general manager, Brian Bell, and strategy director Tony Farrell, but they will not attend.

Mayor Jodie Harrison and deputy mayor Wendy Harrison confirmed they will not attend, saying they have prior commitments.

Action group spokesman Jim Sullivan said the group was disappointed.

“The council should be leading the charge on this,” Mr Sullivan said. “When the community most needs support from the council, they’re nowhere to be seen.”

Mr Sullivan said the pollution problem was a serious health and safety risk, affecting 2500 homes in Boolaroo, Argenton and Speers Point and hundreds of other properties across the city polluted with black slag.

“The council is in denial and trying to distance itself from this problem,” he said.

“Mr Farrell has been head of the department [that deals with contamination matters at council] for years – that’s why we called for him to attend and explain the council’s position on it.’’

A council statement said Mr Bell was interstate and Mr Farrell had a prior commitment with the deputy mayor. Councillor Daniel Wallace confirmed he would attend, to which Mr Sullivan said “that’s because he’s got fortitude”.

Mayor Jodie Harrison said she made a commitment weeks ago to attend a Cancer Council forum at Cardiff for state political candidates.

Mr Sullivan said his group had changed the date of the meeting and put it back to 7.30pm to try to accommodate politicians.

Mayor Harrison updated the action group on her request to Environment Minister Rob Stokes to establish a lead-contamination program in Lake Macquarie under the NSW Environmental Trust.

“Council is an interested party in this, not a decision-maker,” she said.

“We have made representations to the minister and had discussions with the EPA, which are the decision-makers in this.’’

The council statement said Mr Farrell provided an update to the action group about the council’s “involvement in addressing contaminated land”.

This included the council’s role in “supporting the activities” of the EPA’s Lead Expert Working Group, which was established in December to examine lead-contamination problems.

AFTER more than two decades of government inaction to deal effectively with the Pasminco pollution problem, residents will rally for a long-term solution.

A public meeting will be held on the matter at Club Macquarie, Argenton, on Wednesday at 7.30pm. 

The meeting will discuss a joint Newcastle Herald-Macquarie University investigation that exposed the failure of authorities to clean up Pasminco pollution.

The investigation revealed dangerously high levels of lead contamination and black slag remain across the city.

The meeting will discuss Macquarie University Professor Mark Patrick Taylor’s finding that the state-sanctioned lead abatement strategy was a failure.

Boolaroo Action Group spokesman Jim Sullivan said the meeting was open to all.

“Our agencies and indeed our council have failed since 1990 to rectify the problems. We’ve got to get it right this time,” he said.


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