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Byron Shire
November 30, 2021

Extent of airport pollutants ‘being hidden from public’

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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 public has been kept in the dark over toxic chemicals at the ILS site which could contaminate groundwater nearby.
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 public has been kept in the dark over toxic chemicals at the ILS site which could contaminate groundwater nearby.

Chris Dobney

With vegetation clearing and earthworks at Gold Coast Airport about to commence within days for a new landing system, a community member of the airport’s consultative group says critical information relating to a dangerous pollutant was withheld prior to the project’s approval.

Lindy Smith, a West Tweed Heads member of the airport’s Community Aviation Consultative Group says there is no plan to deal with PFCs, present on the site as a result of fire-fighting foams, which have already been found to be present in groundwater at the airport.

Faced with the fact that the airport authority shows no inclination to reveal details of the quantity or extent of the pollution, Ms Smith, who has been a member of the group since 2011, decided it was time to speak out.

Bio-cumulative chemicals

PFCs are bio-cumulative man-made chemical compounds that have been linked to tumours and which may have toxic effects on the immune, liver, and endocrine systems.

Ms Smith said she had been told that work will ‘commence in a week or so… including clearing 32.5ha of significant native vegetation and a 1,500m realignment of Coolangatta Creek.’

She added this was likely to result in ‘substantial disturbance of soil, ground and surface water. ‘

Ms Smith said works were also planned for the new instrument landing system (ILS), ‘which includes clearing of wetlands, 450m realignment of tidal channel and nearly 3km of trenching alongside the lower Tweed River system.’

All this, she said, would have a dramatic impact on the movement of PFCs already contaminating the site.

‘It is confirmed PFC chemicals have contaminated soil and groundwater on the airport site in both NSW and Qld – and has been known since 2008,’ she said.

But she added, the community was being ‘kept in the dark on the extent of the spread of the contamination,’ both on the airport site and beyond, as well as the levels of PFCs.

Bore water contaminated?

Ms Smith said residents near the airport at Bilinga and Kirra who use spear pumps on their gardens are worried about PFC chemical contaminants, which ‘have been confirmed to have spread to extensive areas downstream of other airport sites’, where fishing, the use of bore and surface water and consumption of some food produce had been prohibited as a result.

She added that ‘contrary to public statements that the airport and Airservices are “committed to providing information on progress to the community” regarding the contamination, it was advised last week they will not in fact be providing any data to the community.’

‘That the airport can hide behind “Commonwealth land” status regardless of the state the airport sits upon and have total disregard for the human communities, other industries, environment and vital water resources is contempt at its worst,’ she said.

Contempt of constituents

‘And the contempt of the constituents by both the federal and state elected representatives on this matter on our doorstep with their silence and turning a blind eye is even more disturbing.

‘While it can be expected a private company only [has] regard to profits of shareholders, that our federal and state elected representatives support a private company’s expansion plans at any cost regardless of the very dire consequences to their constituents is unconscionable.

‘I have come to the conclusion our two major-party political system is broken with one party in government and the opposition failing to uphold accountability – they are one of the same,’ Ms Smith said.


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  1. Thank goodness there are people like Lindy Smith who care about our community and the environment.
    I attended a recent meeting where the facts were explained by experts in the field and I was horrified by what I learned. The extent of cover up is appalling. Our commercial and recreational fishing may also be under threat because of toxicity levels when these poisons start to show up more widely. When voting I suggest you think about which party WILL give a damn about the health of the community and environment.


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