Latest News

The seven million dollar question

  Last week the Independent reported that the remediation of the former South Grafton sewerage treatment plant (STP) – the site of Clarence Valley Council’s new depot – had cost an estimated, yet-to-be-finalised $6.976 million. The day after the paper went to press, CVC’s general manager, Scott Greensill, issued a media release saying that the ‘clean up’ was completed. He said the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) required former sewage treatment plants to be fully remediated. “Asbestos containing materials, biosolids and other contaminants had been dumped on the site over scores of years and there were few records of where and when that happened,” he said. “That added to the difficulty of clean-up and to the cost.” “…It is important to stress that council had no choice but to remediate the site. “When the new sewage treatment plant opened in Clarenza in 2010 it meant the old plant had to be cleaned up so council could surrender its licence to the EPA.” In January, the Independent asked the EPA: “Would the EPA have accepted capping the site and leaving contaminants in the ground? Please outline the reasoning behind the answer to this question, for both the bio-solids and the asbestos contaminated soil.” The EPA responded: “The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act – SEPP 55 Remediation of Land requires that when there is a change of land use, the contamination status of a site needs to be assessed and remediated where necessary to ensure the site is suitable for the intended land use. “Cap and containment is one of the ways a site can be remediated, but in this case, removal of the contaminants was the adopted appropriate approach. “No proposal to cap the site was presented to the EPA and without such a proposal it is not appropriate for the EPA to speculate on suitability.” The Independent made an enquiry to CVC, seeking clarification regarding the GM’s statement that CVC “had no choice but to remediate the site”, including a copy of the EPA’s position on cap and containment of the site. Clarence Valley Council’s works and civil director, Troy Anderson, said in an emailed response: “Cap and contain was originally the preferred option for the site and was detailed in the original Remediation Action Plan. “But when the nature and distribution of illegal dumping on site became apparent, it could no longer be used. “The disturbance that would have been required to cap and contain could have allowed contaminants to leach into the water table and neither council nor the EPA would allow that to happen. “There was a large amount of unauthorised fill at the site and the EPA required that to be removed and taken to a licensed facility, which is what should have happened with it in the first place.” Mr Greensill said in his media release that the total cost was yet to be finalised, but was estimated to be $6.976 million. “This will need to be funded from council’s sewerage fund,” he said. “It won’t come from the general rate fund, so anything not related to sewerage will not be affected, but we will probably need to defer some capital projects that were planned to come from the sewerage fund to meet the costs.” Mr Greensill said the completion of the clean-up meant council could now start work on a more efficient depot and close five existing depots in Grafton. “That will [result] in estimated operational savings of more than $1million annually,” he said.