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Marrickville council raises alarm over asbestos-ridden WestConnex site

The Alexnadria Landfill site in St Peters. Source: Wendy Bacon


Marrickville Council is seeking urgent legal advice as to whether it can issue a stop work order for the Alexandria Landfill site in St Peters.

Since August, the WestConnex Delivery Authority (WDA) has removed hundreds of truck loads of waste from the site. This is despite resident concerns that trucks have not been properly covered and are travelling outside designated roads, and that there is inadequate dust control on the site.

The WestConnex Action Group (WAG) has also accused the WDA of excavating and remediating the site before approval from the NSW Planning and Environment Department has come to build the massive interchange for the M5 duplicate tollway on the site. At the earliest this approval would not be given until 2016.

Marrickville Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore, who had unsuccessfully tried at an earlier meeting to move a motion stopping work, moved a crucial amendment on September 15, calling again for a stop work which was supported by nearly all other councillors.

The council also confirmed its “absolute opposition to the WestConnex project” and called again for the immediate release of both a WestConnex business case and Environmental Impact Statement.

Independent Councillor Mark Gardiner said the council could not understand the reasoning of the project.

“Council is deeply disappointed that the state government has seen fit to announce who is the preferred contractor for the construction of the New M5 tunnels and St Peters interchange, while we all wait for the justification of this mad project,” Clr Gardiner said.

Marrickville Council also called for the Environmental Protection Authority and WorkCover Authority to regularly monitor the site works, to communicate fully and effectively with affected residents, and to provide council with regular works updates and status reports.

Clr Gardiner said it was council’s responsibility to “take appropriate action” for residents.

“Local residents have told us that they fear that excavation activities are taking place….As well, we know that the site was historically licenced to receive and handle asbestos and other contaminated material, and residents are adamant that removal of material from the site has not been managed properly,” he said.

“They are quite rightly very worried about the health impacts of this.”

WDA have agreed with a demand from council that Saturday work finish at 1 rather than 4pm. However it has not complied with a demand that the WDA immediately implement an alternative heavy vehicle entry and exit point to the site, away from residential properties.

Rather than comply with council’s request or respond to resident concerns, WDA has, if anything, escalated its work at the site this week.

On Tuesday, a St Peters resident told City Hub that he had observed large number of trucks leaving the site without the safety measure of tyre wetting being applied. After he took out a camera, a water truck turned up close to the gates. This has been reported to the EPA.

Spokesperson for WAG Pauline Lockie spoke at the council meeting, and called on the council to take responsibility for the site.

“We congratulate Mayor Mark Gardiner for working with the Greens councillors to make amendments that reflected community concerns, and Marrickville Council for passing this motion,” she said after the meeting.

But the group is still frustrated that despite the motion and numerous calls to the WDA and NSW Environmental Authority about safety concerns, WDA continues to conduct unsafe and apparently unlicensed remediation work at the site, which is full of asbestos.

Residents have successfully staged three peaceful protests which have prevented trucks leaving the site. They have said they will continue to stage protests until the legality and safety of the work can be established.

The group has now sought assistance from the Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) who wrote to the WDA seeking information about the legal basis for its actions which require planning approval. The WDA claims to be relying on old approvals for a Waste Disposal Facility. The old Dial a Dump Waste Disposal Authority shut down last December. City Hub has read these approvals and they do not appear to provide any legal basis for the  current work. The WDA is yet to respond to the EDO.

Wendy Bacon  who is a residents of Newtown has attended protests against the Westconnex.

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