Clarence Valley Council (CVC) has released a map that marks where asbestos was allegedly buried at the site of the new ‘super’ depot under construction at Tyson Street, South Grafton.
The Clarence Environment Centre’s John Edwards was given the map after an appeal against CVC’s rejection of his formal GIPA (Government Information (Public Access)).
A former employee alerted the council, last year, regarding his concerns that fill placed at the site following the decommissioning of the sewerage treatment plant (STP) may have included broken asbestos pipes.
The man told the Independent that he had given the original map to council; and his main concern was the STP’s former sludge lagoon, which is marked on the map given to Mr Edwards.
The former employee said the lagoon was filled over an 18-month to two-year period in the late 1980s or early 1990s.
He said many truckloads of fill, which may have included broken concrete asbestos pipes, building waste and other rubble, were put into the hole, which was then covered with “two to three foot of top soil”.
Meanwhile, at the July 2016 council meeting, when councillors Williamson, Lysaught, Hughes, McKenna and Kingsley voted to proceed with the depot project (councillors Baker, Toms and Simmons were opposed), Cr Toms, who said the council had not been “open and transparent” about the alleged asbestos at the site, was denied access to the map.
At that time, Cr Toms went public with her concerns on the Clarence Forum social media page.
She said Mr Greensill had invited her to submit a formal GIPA and pay the associated fees “as a member of the public”.
“The General Manager doesn’t agree with me that there are community concerns about asbestos on that site,” was posted on the forum with her permission.
“…The reason he has given me is the issue of alleged asbestos has been dealt with and is not a matter that is before Council.”
Looking at the various public documents – the site’s remediation action plan and supplementary soil investigations prepared by consultants WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff – it’s not clear where or how deep test holes/pits were dug.
A letter and map advising of supplementary soil investigations does not appear to concur with an email (obtained via Mr Edward’s GIPA) from the council’s water cycle manager, Greg Mashiah, to WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff.
Mr Mashiah’s email requests that “four additional test pits to be sampled; 2 in each circle”, which are marked in red with a cross on the supplied map – the one beneath the ‘former sludge pond’ was concerned with possible buried jars of mercury.
The Independent lodged an enquiry with CVC on Monday; however, a response was not received prior to the print deadline.
Reasons given to Mr Edwards regarding why his initial GIPA request was rejected, included: “The information that you seek access too, was provided to Council in confidence.
“Council considers that should it release the information, the confidence that the public has in Council not to release material provided to them in confidence would be undermined and deter members of the public from disclosing information to Council in the future.”