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CVC calls for public input into dumping at former STP

Clarence Valley Council is asking people to make submission regarding the disposal of waste or illegal dumping at the former South Grafton sewerage treatment plant and the site of its new depot. Pictured: excavators remove contaminated fill from the depot site: file image
It has been a long time coming, but Clarence Valley Council (CVC) has formally moved to seek input from the public regarding “waste disposal” at the site for the new depot currently under construction at Tyson Street, South Grafton. At the February 2017 council meeting, Cr Greg Clancy, seconded by Cr Debrah Novak, gained the support of councillors Ellem, Toms, Simmons and Kingsley to have a report prepared and submitted to councillors that goes “back to 2004 … outlining the history of waste disposal on the proposed depot” and former sewerage treatment plant (STP) site, which includes the “composition of those wastes (highlighting those likely to contain asbestos) which has been of such concern to the local community and the parents of children at the neighbouring high school”. Further, the councillors’ decision calls for a breakdown of “the volume and weight amounts likely to have been dumped and when dumping at this site ceased”. The council spent $6.976million on transporting 72,008 tonnes of asbestos contaminated fill from the site to a landfill near Ipswich, Queensland. The Independent revealed concerns about alleged illegal dumping of asbestos at the site in January 2016, following the issue being raised by the Clarence Forum Facebook site – a former employee had raised the issue with the forum’s convenor John Hagger. Former CVC general manager, Scott Greensill, labelled Mr Hagger’s allegations as “irresponsible scaremongering” at the time. However, he assured residents that “all necessary actions in regards to possible asbestos at the proposed new depot site in Grafton are being managed in the appropriate and responsible manner”. “During the course of the redevelopment project Council is legally obliged to appropriately deal with any waste related matters, including asbestos, and these are encompassed in a site remediation action plan (RAP),” he said. At the February 2016 council meeting, Mr Greensill, in an exchange with Cr Toms, who asked – “With the contamination issues and the amount that has been allocated [$1.173million] … is that expected to rise considering the asbestos issues that are now being discussed?” – said that, while contamination and remediation issues were “being discussed, there is no identified asbestos on the site”. “Now, if it turns up … we’ve said on multiple occasions that we will manage it, as any project manager or construction authority does.” In February 2017, the RAP, according to a report to council, contained “numerous discrepancies and inadequacies … including non-compliance with NSW EPA requirements and the actual site conditions. “It is recommended that investigation be undertaken into the recovery of connected costs from the authors of the RAP [Parsons Brinckerhoff] and associated informative documentation,” the report to council stated Meanwhile, in March this year, councillors voted unanimously to decrease funding projects valued at $4.15million, which would normally have been paid for through CVC’s sewer fund, “to enable suitable cash-flow for the remediation of the South Grafton STP site”. This action was taken due to NSW Minister for Local Government Paul Toole’s refusal of CVC’s application for a $5.334million internal loan, from its water fund to the general fund, to cover cash flow shortfalls while CVC sold properties to fund the depot’s construction. The March report to council noted that “some pipeline, pump station and STP assets identified as requiring renewal will be delayed”, however, this was qualified with: “as the deferral of renewal works is likely to be for about 2.5 years, it is not expected to have a significant adverse impact on asset condition”. Council’s water cycle manager, Greg Mashiah, wrote in the report that changes to council’s works planning meant that “the predicted minimum cash and reserves in the sewer fund as at 30 June 2017 will be $1.889 million, which is lower than the $2 million minimum which has been the limit used in previous sewer fund modelling noted by Council in July 2012”. “Having less than the minimum sewer fund balance results in a financial risk if a significant unbudgeted expense occurs,” Mr Mashiah wrote. The council’s media release “invites” “people with first-hand knowledge of waste disposal on the site of the former sewage treatment plant in South Grafton … to share that information with the Clarence Valley Council”. “Council’s works and civil director, Troy Anderson, said people could provide information about waste disposal at the site by emailing or writing to The General Manager, Locked Bag 23, Grafton, 2460,” the media release states. “Submissions should be marked, ‘Resident submission regarding historic waste disposal’, and will be taken until 4pm on June 16, 2017.”