City News

Alarming toxic levels at Barangaroo

A recent report evaluating the environmental risks at Barangaroo reveals an alarming level of groundwater contamination.

The Environmental Assessment Report, written by Dr Scott Wilson and put before the Land and Environment Court, states both soil and groundwater at Barangaroo is contaminated with a range of metals and organic compounds.

According to the report, toxins such as lead and mercury are concerning because they exceed Water Quality Guidelines or because of their “general toxic nature.”

“The concentrations are sufficiently high that if entering into the Harbour they would pose a serious risk to the immediate local environment,” the report states.

“Chronic exposure to this mix of contaminants will likely impair growth, development and survival of aquatic life in the vicinity of the discharge points. “

Court action has been launched in the NSW Land and Environmental Court by Australians for Sustainable Development (ASfD).

ASfD are challenging the approval to excavate and relocate material at Barangaroo and are calling on work to stop until further environmental assessments have been completed.

Chairman of Clean Up Australia, Ian Kiernan, recently said at a community meeting Lend Lease did not have the capacity to adequately deal with the site.

“Lend Lease do not have experience in the management of toxic sites, yet out there, there is a huge library of skilled, clever people and corporations that know what to do,” he said.

Currently at the former Millers Point Gasworks site at Barangaroo, Lend Lease is using a process called Sufactant-Enhanced in Suti chemical oxidation (SJSCO) to dilute existing toxic chemicals.

But according to action groups, the process is “untested” and “unproven”.

Deputy Lord Mayor and Vice-president of AfSD, Marcelle Hoff, recently said the public must have a commitment from Lend Lease they will clean up the site.

“The excavation works pose a serious risk of toxic waste flowing into the Harbour,” she said.

“If the contamination is not properly removed prior to excavation, both human

health and sea life can be put at risk.”

Greens candidate for the seat of Sydney, De Brierley Newton, said Lend Lease is “playing Russian roulette with the health of Sydney Harbour”.

“[Lend Lease] has no interest in remediating the soil properly or to protest our Harbour and the public,” she said.

But Lend Lease maintains the redevelopment will be climate neutral with 100 per cent of its electricity coming from low carbon and renewable generation.

The State Government approved Lend Lease’s amended concept plan, which includes a hotel in the Harbour, increased office space and two additional buildings before Christmas.

The issue of contamination at Barangaroo will appear before the Land and Environment Court on January 31.

By Sophie Cousins