CVC’s works and civil director Troy Anderson responds and notes that the former employee “was heavily involved in the contaminated land surveys…
“… I am expecting that [his] advice … will be in line with … existing information and data…”
January 2016: ABC North Coast and the Independent report on alleged asbestos at the site. Safework NSW inspects the site and advised it is “working with CVC to develop safe systems of work for the remediation”.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advised that “CVC is the appropriate regulatory authority and is responsible for any asbestos issues on the site”.
CVC’s general manager, Scott Greensill, advised that “all necessary actions in regards to possible asbestos … are being managed in the appropriate and responsible manner.
“…The ongoing raising of this issue is considered to be nothing more that irresponsible scaremongering.”
CVC declined to answer the Independent’s list of questions.
February 2016: CVC issues a media release titled, Warning of misleading claims from petitioners, which alleged that someone had been petitioning nearby residents. Scott Greensill said that “some of the reports [about the petitioner] we have had are disturbing.
“One resident told us the petitioner … made a number of false claims…
“She said he told her the council was going to dump asbestos waste near the [adjacent] South Grafton High School … that is a completely irresponsible claim.”
At the February council meeting, Cr Karen Toms asked the general manager if the remediation budget was adequate, given the alleged asbestos.
Responding, Mr Greensill said that “there is no identified asbestos on the site”.
“Now, if it turns up … we’ve said on multiple occasions that we will manage it…”
March 2016: CVC issues a media release stating that the site “poses no asbestos risk”, following further testing of the site, and that a new report “backs up findings of a report prepared in 2013”. The release states that “an asbestos pipe was identified at the southwest portion of the site” and that “if a significant amount of suspected bonded asbestos is encountered all works must cease and the appropriate additional controls implemented.”
March 2016: Greens MP David Shoebridge lodged questions in the NSW Parliament, regarding the alleged “illegal dumping of asbestos”, asking: “What actions is the Minister taking to ensure that Clarence Valley Council is taking appropriate steps to inform the community, honestly and transparently.”
His questions were answered in June and the Minister assured him that everything was in order and that CVC was working with Safework NSW and the EPA.
June 2016: The general manager writes to John Hagger, telling him that he “did not intend to waste any more of [CVC’s] time and resources addressing allegations, which I believe have already been addressed”.
July 2016: At the July council meeting, Cr Toms asks if she can have a copy of a map that marks the location of alleged contaminated fill, as indicated by the former employee.
The following comment was published, with her permission, on The Clarence Forum: “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.”
September 2016: The Clarence Environment Centre’s John Edwards was given a map of where the alleged asbestos was buried, following an appeal against CVC’s initial rejection of his formal GIPA, on the grounds that “the information that you seek access to was provided to Council in confidence”.
The former employee tells the Independent that the map CVC released was not the same one he had given the council; however, he said his main concern was material dumped in the former STP’s sludge lagoon, as marked on the map given to Mr Edwards.
November 2016: Documents showing that 900 kilograms of asbestos pipes had been discovered during the sieving of 4,000 cubic metres of fill, along with “large pieces of concrete, tires and car parts, chain wire fencing and road markers”, are tabled at the November council meeting.
“This means that what has been assumed to be natural ground is actually uncontrolled fill.
“….The high level of organic material in the fill sifted thus far indicates risks with re-use of the material below the stockpiles and the significant amount of waste in the material will make it difficult to work with.
“In addition there is likely to be further asbestos in this material.
“…In accordance with their obligations the 3rd Party Auditor has notified EPA of the uncontrolled fill and asbestos materials that have been dumped on the site.
“EPA has contacted Council with regards to this and an initial response provided.
“The response was high level and further information is likely to be required by EPA.”
These ‘discoveries’, the PCG minutes state, could result in a variation to the contract of “$1million to $1.4million” if the ‘cleaned’ stockpile is retained and buried on site, however, “this option may not be acceptable to EPA and further advice from EPA may be required”.
“The potential costs for removing all of the uncontrolled fill and bio-solids will be in the order of $2m to 2.5m,” the PCG minutes state.
However, these costs would have had to have been met by CVC in any case, as it is bound to remediate the former sewerage treatment plant irrespective of a depot being constructed or not – and will be paid for out of the council’s sewer fund.
Meanwhile, the report to council states that “discovery and rectification of latent conditions will have an approximate 3 month delay to the overall construction programme”.
Four weeks of this delay was a result of the Parsons Brinckerhoff “RAP report and Technical specification reports [having] not been completed in accordance with EPA requirements”.
The report to council notes: “There remains a risk that NSW EPA may take action toward Council with regard to uncontrolled waste being placed at the site.”
And: “It is proposed that Council assess its options at a future date with regard to the suitability and validity of the RAP … there are numerous discrepancies and inadequacies associated with the document…”
However, the general manager Scott Greensill, who described the forum’s convenor John Hagger’s allegations as “irresponsible scaremongering”, chose to answer the questions with the following statement:
“Council takes matters of community and workplace safety very seriously.
“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.
“Council has been in discussion with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and SafeWork NSW who are both in concurrence with council’s current management and proposed actions.
“Council is aware that anonymous complaints were made to the EPA and SafeWork NSW late last year and these have been adequately attended to.
“Recurrent attempts of raising this matter appear to be emanating from one person, despite Council clearly demonstrating on numerous occasions to relevant authorities that the required protections and plans are in place.
“The ongoing raising of this issue is considered to be nothing more that irresponsible scaremongering.”
The questions posed by the Independent are below:
• SafeWork NSW has advised the Independent that it has “directed Council to ensure the site remains secure and that no unauthorised individuals or workers have access to the site” and that it has “also advised Council to update their asbestos register to reflect that asbestos is present at the site”. Has this occurred?
• How can I access the council’s asbestos register?
• SafeWork NSW has advised the Independent that it “is working with Council to develop safe systems of work for the remediation of the site set to start in early 2016”. How and when do you envisage that this will take place?
• If asbestos was known to be onsite (as reported by the ABC), why was this information omitted from the State Environment Planning Policy checklist – marked as not relevant – regarding Table 55 in the Managing Land Contamination Planning Guidelines, SEPP 55–Remediation of Land, when the planning proposal was exhibited?
• The planning proposal comment, however, says that “Council is in any case stepping through a ‘remediation action plan’ (RAP) process in respect of the contamination that has been detected at the site. If it’s not Table 55 contamination (eg asbestos); what are the specific contaminants referred to in the RAP?
• The EPA has publically stated that “asbestos on the site would require remediation before the land is developed”. However, director Troy Anderson stated in the ABC report that, “Council has a remediation action plan for the entire site which has identified a certain area which may have asbestos materials and we’ll be dealing with that as we move through construction.” Your statement is contrary to what was stated by the EPA [remediation before the land is developed]. What is the council doing regarding this apparent conflict?
• Will the site be remediated before any construction commences?
• The council’s asbestos policy states: “It is illegal to dispose of asbestos waste in domestic waste bins or to recycle, reuse, BURY or ILLEGALLY DUMP [the Independent’s emphasis] asbestos waste.” The council appears to have breached this policy, what is your response to that?
• Is the asbestos onsite regarded as friable or non-friable?
• What are the products onsite that contain asbestos?
• It has been alleged that some of the material dumped at the site has subsequently been removed and used elsewhere – has this occurred?
• If so, does CVC have a record of where this material has been used?
• It has been alleged that local residents may have removed material from the site, which may be contaminated by asbestos – what is CVC doing to manage this?
• What action does the council plan to take to advise and/or protect its employees regarding the asbestos, in accordance with the council’s asbestos policy?