A Tweed councillor claims the proposed 24-hour McDonald’s fast-food outlet and IGA supermarket development in Murwillumbah should never have been approved before completion of a contamination report, which found petroleum-based chemicals, asbestos and other toxic materials on the site.
Cr Gary Bagnall, a Murwillumbah cafe owner who decided to run for council this year after losing a campaign to stop the McDonald’s outlet, said a report on the site on Tweed Valley Way, where an old Norco butter-factory and rural supplies outlet once stood, showed it’s heavily contaminated with volatile chemicals and asbestos fibres ‘among other things’.
But mayor Barry Longland says approval was conditional on a contamination report provided for the site and if there had been any issues with such contamination, a construction certificate would not be issued till they had been resolved.
Tweed Shire Council approved the development in February this year, and two months ago council’s environmental health unit ticked off a remediation action plan (RAP) prepared by a consultant for McDonald’s.
A McDonald’s spokesperson told Echonetdaily that as a result, construction for the $3 million development was now due to start later this year or early next.
Cr Bagnall said a contamination report on the 6,500 square-metre site had suggested above-normal levels of contaminants including heavy metals, organochlorine pesticides, benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene and xylenes (BTEX), petroleum hydrocarbons and asbestos.
The old Norco store for years supplied farming products such as fertilisers, agricultural chemicals, stock feed, fuel and machinery products. Petroleum fuel, including petrol and diesel, was also stored at the site in underground storage tanks.
‘Although the report recommends in the end that “capping” will prove the best option for most of the site, there is one section, the eastern fuel storage area that will require other action,’ Cr Bagnall told Echonetdaily.
‘The management of the site to reduce risks to workers and the wider community will be an issue in terms of dust generated, which has the potential to contain harmful asbestos fibres and will have to be closely monitored.
‘This presents a public health risk and leads the community again to question council as to why this report was not completed as it should have been prior to the approval of the development application (DA).
‘Therefore it would have been part of the business papers and open to public comment.
‘The issue for the community is that this DA should not have been granted without this contamination report completed prior to approval, according to the legal advice received by the Caldera Environment Centre.
‘Thus there is evidence in this case that council have failed to meet the legal requirements in the process of approving this development. Legally, it appears council have made an error.
‘According to this (contamination) report, the duty to report contamination is “being dealt with under local planning regulatory framework” but according to the barrister, council have been negligent with this responsibility.’
Cr Bagnall says that as a result, ‘it seems pertinent that these matters need to be reconsidered’.