Inner West Independent

Inner West: Council to hold NSW Government accountable for contaminated WestConnex Park

Inner West Council unanimously supported an immediate NSW Government investigation into potential contamination at the St Peters WestConnex Interchange. Photo: Facebook/Pauline Lockie.

By KATELYN MILLIGAN

Inner West Council has called for the NSW Government to conduct an immediate investigation into potential contamination at WestConnex St Peters Interchange Park.

Council will write to Premier Gladys Berejiklian and relevant Ministers to hold NSW Government accountable for the remediation, ownership and management of the toxic parkland within the Inner West Council local government area.

The motion, put forward by new Deputy Mayor Pauline Lockie, was unanimously passed at the Council’s Extraordinary Meeting on Tuesday.

Inner West Council Director of Infrastructure Cathy Edwards-Davis said that Council was uninformed of NSW Transport’s expectation for Council to oversee the care, control and management of the park until recently.

“We were only asked to take over this land very shortly prior to the completion of the M8 tunnel and as a result, Council staff have had no input into the design of this land,” Ms Edwards-Davis told Council.

Pointing fingers

Council is adamant that they will not accept responsibility for the State-led St Peters Interchange Park, asserting that the NSW Government must maintain responsibility for the site.

The green space was due to be completed in 2019, but two years on is far from finished.

Council intends to call on NSW Government to work collaboratively in identifying an alternative site of genuine open space and parkland, in line with the condition of approval for the WestConnex project.

Inner West Mayor Rochelle Porteous says the NSW Government must adhere to its promise of delivering open green space as community compensation for the WestConnex project, rather than handing off an unwanted liability.

“To claim the motorway as a benefit to the community of St Peters lacks any credibility,” Ms Porteous told the Independent.

“The people of St Peters and surrounding suburbs needs parkland that allows them quiet and reflective spaces away from noise and exhaust fumes. Trees and grass under motorway pylons [are] simply greenwash.”

Councillor Victor Macri echoed Porteous’s concerns during Tuesday’s Council meeting.

“Why should Council be hoisted the cost of this, particularly when we don’t even own it, it’s not ours. There’s lower hanging fruit, where we’d actually get a better outcome for open space, for probably a lot less money than what this will cost us. I think the state government really needs to live up to their obligation,” Mr Macri said.

Environmental scientist and previous landfill consultant Charlie Pierce told the Independent that the Alexandria landfill, which is now the site of the proposed St Peters Parkland, is still actively decomposing and creating methane. He says it will continue to degrade for another 50 years.

Toxic danger

The latest monitoring data from the site reveals that several locations within the toxic parkland have recorded gas methane above the lower explosive level of five per cent. This raises extreme concerns as methane above this limit can accumulate and become an explosive hazard.

With two gas monitoring wells recording gas methane levels over 60 per cent, Lockie says that evidence reinforces Council’s call for an immediate investigation.

“I look for a lot of things from a park, but I have to say explosiveness is not one of them,” Ms Lockie said.

“If there are potential toxic gases or matter coming through there then that’s something that the state government absolutely has to address as a matter of urgency, both for the residents who live around in that area and for their own workers,” Lockie told the Independent.

Pierce suggests an independent investigation to ensure an accurate assessment of contamination levels is needed at St Peters Interchange Park.

“I used to be an environmental consultant and when you find problems, you will always put a spin on the report to make it look not so bad for your client, you want them to come back,” Pierce said.

“It would be good if Council could request to be the people in charge of the people conducting the investigation so they would be looking after Council’s interest … Council wants to know about the level of contamination and Transport [for] NSW wants to get rid of the land.”

Council have met with Transport for NSW on numerous occasions over the past year to discuss contamination and management concerns, however, no agreement has been made on the management of the parkland moving forward.

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