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Byron Shire
April 22, 2021

Airport managers urged to release contamination details

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Senator Lee Rhiannon and the Greens' candidate for Richmond Dawn Walker during a kayak tour of the Cobaki Broadwater this week. Photo Luis Feliu
Senator Lee Rhiannon and the Greens’ candidate for Richmond, Dawn Walker, during a kayak tour of the Cobaki Broadwater this week. Photo Luis Feliu

Luis Feliu

Gold Coast Airport management has been urged to immediately release details of the levels of toxic contaminants in run-off from airport land.

And it’s been revealed that airport managers failed to disclose the contamination, caused by chemicals banned in many jurisdictions, until after they received final approval for their controversial runway expansion plan.

The call by the Greens for airport managers to ‘consider the health of local residents and the environment’ came this week following a visit to the area by Senator Lee Rhiannon and federal MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt.

The two MPs have since raised their concerns at a federal inquiry.

Similar contaminants found at Williamtown RAAF airbase in the Hunter Valley and other areas sparked the inquiry, initiated by Senator Rhiannon, who tabled questions about the contamination at the inquiry hearings in Canberra yesterday.

Opponents of the airport’s contentious runway expansion plan recently called for an immediate halt to it once it was revealed that the same toxic chemicals had contaminated land on the NSW side of the border where a new instrument landing system (ILS) is set to be built.

The site has been used by Air Services Australia for fire training exercises using firefighting foam containing toxic chemicals, blamed for contaminating land at the Williamtown air base and Newcastle Airport, including an extensive area of groundwater systems and waterways.

The toxic chemicals were also found in fish downstream of the facilities, prompting a halt to commercial fishing and oyster harvesting in areas around the two Hunter Valley airports, with warnings issued over the use of water and some food products.

Senator Rhiannon initiated the inquiry into the contaminants at Williamtown and other centres, saying it was a ‘serious problem’.

Greens’ Richmond candidate Dawn Walker said ‘our community expects answers and action from Gold Coast Airport now this contamination has come to light’.

‘We don’t want to find out that persistent and dangerous chemicals have leached into groundwater or threatened the health of residents and the world-class Cobaki and Terranora broadwaters years down the track. We need action now,’ Ms Walker said.

‘Airport management need to reveal the level of contamination in water coming off their land and how much of their land is contaminated, as a matter of urgency. They cannot continue to ignore this issue.

‘In its draft master development plan, Gold Coast Airport disclosed that some of its land was contaminated.

‘But interestingly it did not disclose that the contamination was caused by chemicals in fire fighting foams that have been banned in many jurisdictions, until after they received final approval for the runway development.

‘We need full transparency on the levels and impacts of the contamination.

The Gold Coast airport expansion to accommodate the antiquated ILS will wipe out hectares of important wetland in NSW. It has now been revealed the proposed ILS site contains toxic chemicals which could contaminate groundwater. .
The Gold Coast airport expansion to accommodate the antiquated ILS will wipe out hectares of important wetland in NSW. It has now been revealed the proposed ILS site contains toxic chemicals which could contaminate groundwater.

‘This issue is already bringing great uncertainty to locals concerned about their health and fishers considering the future of their industry.’

Ms Walker said she was working closely with Senator Rhiannon and her state colleagues on the issue.

Both toured the area this week, including the panoramic Cobaki Broadwater which is under threat from such contamination, as well as a huge township development near the NSW-Queensland border.

Senator Rhiannon said she’d seen ‘the hardship over health concerns and loss of income has brought to the people of Williamtown’.

‘We need to learn the lessons from that bad experience and make sure Tweed residents don’t experience the same problems,’ she said.

‘The starting point has to be full transparency on the level of contamination and what will be done to protect people and the environment.

The senator said she would be working closely with the community, Ms Walker and Mr Bandt ‘to ensure the Gold Coast Airport honour their duty of care’.

Gold Coast Airport’s chief operating officer Marion Charlton told Echonetdaily that the Draft Major Development Plan for the ILS submitted to the federal transport minister had highlighted the identification of the two chemicals used in the firefighting foam (Perflurooctane sulfonate  and Perflurooctanoic acid) on airport land.

‘Throughout the ILS approval process Gold Coast Airport has adhered to relevant legislative requirements’, Ms Charlton said.

See our previous stories on the issue at http://www.echo.net.au/2016/03/federal-greens-mp-to-probe-airport-land-contamination/ and  https://www.echo.net.au/2016/03/gold-coast-airport-expansion-site-contaminated/)


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1 COMMENT

  1. Must be an election year. Greens are scratching around for “issues”. Wonder what it is like knowing you will never form government.

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