INVESTIGATION

Boolaroo to benefit from $23 million to address contaminated sites

INFLUENTIAL: Professor Mark Taylor in Boolaroo in 2014. The Newcastle Herald's Toxic Truth campaign helped reveal the extent of lingering contamination at the site.
INFLUENTIAL: Professor Mark Taylor in Boolaroo in 2014. The Newcastle Herald's Toxic Truth campaign helped reveal the extent of lingering contamination at the site.

A REVIEW of legacy contamination in Boolaroo has helped sparked a $23 million state government investment to improve the handling of contaminated NSW land. 

The state government announced on Thursday it would implement 75 recommendations from three reviews, including the Lead Expert Working Group report into the management of legacy lead contamination in Lake Macquarie and another by Professor Mark Taylor looking at contaminated sites across the state. 

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the response would improve how contamination was managed in NSW. 

“Managing contaminated land issues is complex,” she said. “The government’s response will help address specific issues, such as the impacts of asbestos in our communities.”

The funding boost, almost $6 million per annum, equates to a 3.5 per cent increase in the Environment Protection Authority’s 2016-17 annual budget, which was $167 million.

Professor Taylor, of Macquarie University, said the government had listened and acted.

“People will always say it’s never enough, but this proves the government is taking the matters seriously,” he said. “Collectively we’ve campaigned about these problems and it’s a great outcome, it’s obvious the reviews were needed and we’re going to see some changes.”  

The recommendations fall under priority areas including clearing the backlog of contaminated sites, targeting illegal waste disposal and improving management of large scale emergency clean-up and abandoned sites. 

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said this was an “excellent step” in the right direction for north Lake Macquarie, still dealing with the fallout of 106 years of lead smelting at Boolaroo.

When the smelter closed in 2003, toxic pollution was left across large parts of Boolaroo, Argenton and Speers Point.

For a development application to be considered, residents in the contamination zone must test and remediate the soil costing up to $70,000 per block of land.

“The government has accepted all 22 recommendations of the Lead Expert Working Group report,” Mr Piper said.

“Some of these funds should be used to address the burden on residential properties. Exactly how this money is actually going to be applied will take some consideration.”

Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser said the funds would help council manage the legacy contamination issue. 

The Newcastle Herald’s Toxic Truth campaign led to the establishment of the Lead Expert Working Group in 2014.

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