Breakthrough at Boolaroo for disposal of lead contaminated soil

17th January 2020

The NSW EPA said on Friday it was reclassifying soil from the area surrounding the former Pasminco smelter as general solid waste, meaning residents required to remediate their land as part of development applications can dispose of soil at any licenced landfill, including the Awaba Waste Management Facility.

EPA executive director hazardous incidents and environmental health Stephen Beaman said the reclassification followed two-stage testing.

"[This] found that the lead was immobilised in the soil and not at risk of leaching when placed in a landfill," Mr Beaman said.


"The new arrangement provides closer to home disposal options for residents removing soil during renovations or major works at home."

The arrangement does not apply to black slag, to be managed on a case-by-case basis.

The EPA will waive its waste levy of $143 per tonne for residents disposing soil from within the highly-contentious lead contamination grid, but council gate fees may still apply.

A spokesperson for Lake Macquarie City Council said it was "reviewing its procedures" to receive the soil and hadn't yet determined what it would charge, but would bear "in mind the cost to property owners".

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said the EPA had "taken a very practical approach at this time - it's a great result".

The City of Newcastle's Summerhill Waste Management Centre had EPA approval for two years to August 2019 to accept the waste in bags and charged $275 per tonne for disposal.

A spokesperson said in October it continued to receive and store soil in bags until the government determined a long-term solution. It had accepted 300 tonnes. Soil could also be taken to Kemps Creek.

Mr Piper said "virtually no-one" chose these "unwieldy and expensive" options. "We don't know what the demand for disposal was because it's been artificially limited by these constraints."

Boolaroo Action Group president and former principal environmental officer Jim Sullivan said the decision represented a "significant cost saving".

"The Boolaroo Action Group and community have been fighting for ten years to have this material able to be taken to the local tip."

He said the decision may mean the community now feels differently about the council's proposed Standard Remedial Action Plan.

He said currently, owners of land considered contaminated or potentially contaminated faced more than $50,000 for a consultant to assess soil lead levels, and if greater than 300ppm, prepare a site specific Remedial Action Plan, supervise remediation and do validation testing.

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