When Clarence Valley Council’s works director, Troy Anderson, was explaining some of the history of the site upon which the new depot is to be constructed at South Grafton, he told the 30 or so attendees that the distribution of bio-solids from the old sewerage treatment plant (STP) across the site resembled liquorice allsorts when viewed within a trench.
Mr Anderson was acting on a November council meeting resolution, which called for “a public meeting [to] be held at the earliest possible convenience to provide a community update on the remediation of the former STP”.
In reality, Mr Anderson was there to answer questions from concerned residents regarding the disturbance and removal of at least 900 kilograms of bonded asbestos concrete pipes found at the site so far.
He assured those present that onsite works and the disposal of contaminated soil would be and has been carried out in accordance with the relevant regulations, on the advice of an independent hygienist.
He said that around 30,000 tonnes of contaminated material would be transported to Queensland for disposal “in accordance with EPA guidelines”.
He acknowledged that the amount of contaminated material could be much more, because “we don’t know how wide or deep the material [dumped at the site] might be”.
He said it was much cheaper to transport the material to Queensland (about $70 tonne) compared to disposing of it NSW (about $285 a tonne) and that there would be no more sieving of material onsite, because it would be removed in bulk.
Stephen Golding quizzed Mr Anderson on the veracity of the Parsons Brinckerhoff report, which analyses and outlines the site’s contaminants.
“Did we pay people to do checks in the first place and did we pay them again [for further analysis]? Mr Golding asked.
“We need to do some checks and balances about what we find on the site,” Mr Anderson said, “and detail what’s outside of that, in regard to having some further discussions with that company about what they have provided us.”
Nearby resident Mark Butler produced a bag containing dust, which he (and others) said “has increased dramatically” since work commenced at the site and that he would be having the dust tested.
Mr Anderson acknowledged that there had not been any monitoring of dust off the site and said the hygienist’s advice following an inspection earlier that day had found that the “asbestos quantity is extremely low and is within the limits of the fibres being caught in the … actual monitoring on the boundaries … we have not found any friable asbestos”.
Mr Butler said: “Are you trying to tell us as educated, semi-educated and dumbos that you’re not breaking any of those bonded pipes while you are excavating.”
Mr Anderson: “I didn’t say that … we haven’t broken any material there that we’re aware of”.
“Part of reason for bulk removal is to prevent what you are talking about,” Mr Anderson said.
On signage at the site, Mr Anderson said the current small signs would be replaced with larger ones “in accordance with regulations … once removal starts”.
Clarence Forum convenor John Hagger wanted to know if the council took responsibility for the asbestos found on the site.
“I can’t speak on behalf of the [councillors], however, I will say that we are undertaking the works to make the site safe and, without putting words in council’s mouth, I think the resolution from the November meeting talked about cleaning up the site in its entirety,” Mr Anderson said.
Pressed again by Mr Hagger, Mr Anderson said he could “not take responsibility for the elected council’s decision”.
Mr Hagger asked again: “Are you aware that council dumped asbestos on site, yes or no?”
Mr Anderson: “There is asbestos there”, however, he would not say that he was aware asbestos had been dumped on the site.
Mayor Jim Simmons said at the end of the meeting that it is “this council’s job to rehabilitate the site” and that he had “a lot of concern regarding what has been said here”.
Mr Anderson took several questions on notice and invited several questioners to see him following the meeting.