A Tweed Shire Council sportsfields site being prepared next to the massive Kings Forest township land on the Tweed Coast is a potential environmental time bomb, according to neighbouring property owners.
The neighbours last week alerted Council to what they say is illegal dumping of contaminated soil, including asbestos and other pollutants, which could leach into their nearby dams.
But Council denies their contractors, which bring truckloads of soil and fill from Council work sites all around the shire into the Depot Road site to raise the level of the planned sportsfields, dumped the asbestos material.
However, a crew of four Council workers wearing protective suits this week removed the material from a northeast corner of the site and are awaiting tests to confirm it was hazardous material.
Angela Rose, her husband Peter De Wilde and their two sons have lived on their 50-acre property bordering the sportsfields site for almost five years and fear inadequate erosion control measures from the massive fill operation will pollute their nearby two dams, used for irrigation and drinking water for their horses.
The GP husband-and-wife team in the past week have been preoccupied with ensuring the asbestos they discovered there as well as other contaminants are removed and disposed of properly.
Ms Rose told Echonetdaily the fill used onsite was neither clean nor safe and she was concerned about future environmental impacts from exposure and runoff.
‘This site will be used by many kids for years to come. Rain and disturbance of it could make it a hazardous environment for them as for well as our property, which is right next door and gets much of the runoff,’ she said.
‘We found a significant amount of asbestos in the form of sheet chips in several places. The origin of this fill is obviously from unchecked contaminated building sites.
‘We also found mineral oil traces in the run-off along our boundary, old cabling, hoses, pieces of pipe made out of varying metals, car tyres, broken plastic drums, a car battery and a lot of broken glass.’
A Council spokesperson said Council officers experienced in asbestos identification and removal inspected the site late last week and found material which ‘showed indications of being of an asbestos nature’.
The spokesperson said Council then liaised with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), the area was isolated and warning signs installed.
‘Because of the amount and nature of the material found, it was assumed to be asbestos and no samples have been sent away for testing at this stage,’ the spokesperson told Echonetdaily.
‘Because of the limited amount of material the decision was taken to engage a removal team from Council rather than (send the) tests off for confirmation which would prolong the process.
‘On completion, a clearance certificate will be issued by a suitably qualified independent hygienist.’
The spokesperson said the material ‘was mostly likely deposited onsite by illegal dumping and recent activity installing erosion control measures, combined with recent weather, has exposed the material’.
The couple’s request to have the site closed down was rejected because, according to Council, ‘no stop work order has been issued by the EPA’.
Ms Rose said the asbestos and other assorted rubbish was widespread and ‘sitting in recently dumped piles, obviously from very large trucks as used by the fill suppliers, so I very much doubt that it was illegal dumping’.
She also has concerns over a large telecommunications tower Telstra is planning to erect nearby to service the new township, ‘which will be next to the site for a proposed primary school at Kings Forest and will pose a hazard to them as well’.
‘We just don’t think it’s a really suitable site for a soccer grounds where children will play, or a suitable site for a Telstra monopole,’ she said.
‘The natural habitat around here will be affected in years to come. One of our dams has clearly received significant sediment run-off as it is now brown. Erosion control measures are mostly non-existent along the northern boundary of the council site.
‘The northeastern boundary [of the] site is also earmarked for a future koala corridor and food trees will be planted to replace the pines, so the area should be kept as clean as possible.
‘It’s ironic that it took a GP to point out asbestos to Council experts,’ she said.