LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 11 Number 3, June 2011, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times (ISSN 1440-4966) & Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Editor: Anne Roberts

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Boolaroo ongoing Lead Abatement Strategy

By Valda Barton, Boolaroo Neighbourhood Centre - Our Community Place (OCP)

(Boolaroo is at the northern end of Lake Macquarie, SW of Newcastle, New South Wales)

Early November 2010, community workers became aware that Pasminco Cockle Creek Smelter, through their liquidators had written to the then NSW Department of Planning asking for a minor change to the 2007 approved Lead Abatement Strategy (LAS) for remediation or abatement to residential properties within the recognized grid .(The grid originated with the Dept of Health, and basically defines affected properties. [ Edís note: The ĎLead Gridí was adopted as the boundary of the Lead Abatement Strategy.] This area covers the four suburbs of Boolaroo, Argenton, Speers Point and some houses at Edgeworth.  As part of this minor change the liquidators wanted residents to sign a Deed of Agreement where they waive away their rights to sue Pasminco or the Liquidators in future years.  By the time the letter from Planning NSW was sent to homeowners, they were left with 14 days to respond.

Our State MP managed to get a 14 day extension and a commitment to a community consultation/Information session to be arranged early December

Our independent State Member gave a speech in Parliament and later in November questions were also asked by the Greens in the upper house.

Early in December, two well attended Information meetings were held.  Here, residents expressed their concerns that the Pasminco site land was fully remediated but the residentís homes were going to mainly get abatement.  People were openly hostile to the suggestion that the properties containing lead slag would be eliminated from the abatement program, and were advised that lead in soil was not now as serious an issue as it has been in the past. However, they had been repeatedly told over the past 17 and more years how harmful LEAD in soil was to childrenís health, to it now being down-graded to a lower status and, were aware that lead in air was now recognized by the Health Department as the main pathway to contamination.

Four days before Christmas, community members ran another Public Meeting on the Deed proposal with a firm of local solicitors there to provide blanket advice to the community about whether or not to sign the Deed, and the implication of signing and not signing.

Now it is 2011. Just before the State elections a meeting of community representatives, Government Department representatives got together to talk about one final push to get it all changed as much as possible to suit the residentsí needs.  This meeting was a great success, with lots of changes to the document taking place.  It is now a Participation Agreement - not a Deed - as realistically, it is a document to outline how the remediation/abatement process will be undertaken and agreed upon by both parties.  Unfortunately, there is still a small section (watered down) where homeowners sign away their rights to sue, but, as Pasminco was split into different companies, each to stand on its own, as a closed plant, this one does not have a lot of capital to call upon to agree to major changes to how abatement/remediation will work. Therefore, the set of guidelines for remediation of properties over >300 ppm is still used.

Now we have a new Government, which has implications for implementing the agreement reached by all parties (except homeowners) towards changes to the Lead Abatement Strategy.  As Pasminco Cockle Creek plant will cease to exist by 2012, residents are in the position of having to accept the little on offer, as there will be no company or liquidators to seek any further money from in future years.

There will, however, be an ongoing education program for current and new residents of the area.  This is in the development stages, and perhaps a future article can go into the details when these are finalized and funding secured.

Overall, the residents feel they have been let down by a company that, over the past years, kept promising them they will have their homes and yards fully remediated, and led into accepting the little abatement that is on offer as better than nothing at all.

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Last Updated 25 January 2012
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