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December 2, 2022

How safe is the Butler Street reserve?

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Byron’s Butler Street Reserve. Photo supplied

A request by The Echo for the report that underpins advice around contamination of Butler Street Reserve has been refused by Byron Shire Council staff.

According to Council staff, that report commenced in 2017, yet there is no indication when the public can expect it to be completed.

Located opposite the bus terminal in Byron Bay, Butler Street Reserve is known to have been an unlicensed landfill up until the mid-1970s. While per-and-poly-fluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) have been found, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) say ‘Finding PFAS in the environment does not mean there is a human health risk’.

Contamination was used, in part, as reason to move the monthly market from the reserve; however, Council announced it was safe for the smaller farmers’ market to return to a ‘stable’ part of the land.

The Echo asked an EPA spokesperson: ‘Are there any health concerns, from the EPA’s perspective if the monthly markets relocate back to the reserve?’

An EPA spokesperson replied, ‘The EPA understands that activity at the site beyond the scope of the farmers’ market would require more extensive control measures’.

The spokesperson also said, ‘Council is responsible for the investigation. The EPA is currently liaising with Council about the start of the next phase of the PFAS investigation works. PFAS investigations are often complex and the need for further investigation might be identified as part of this phase. Council has compiled a draft Environmental Management Plan for the site, which focuses on the return of the farmers’ market (small scale market) and the necessary control measures for protecting human health’.

Council staff added, ‘The most recent investigations have been regarding PFAS, but there is no single summary/analysis report covering all contamination issues across the site. It has been an iterative process of investigation, as EPA requests for further investigations have been made’.

‘Owing to the fact that the PFAS investigation is ongoing, Council is not in a position to release a comprehensive report’.

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  1. It is my understanding that the Butler st. reserve was initially created using for fill large quantities of Zircon, a radio-active material that was stockpiled after the 2nd. world war at the old beach sand treatment works in Johnson st.where it remained for years before the Byron Council decided to use it for fill at the reserve, at the primary school and beneath the police station and hospital.
    When, some years ago the environment centre checked out the reserve with a geiger-counter the results were alarming enough for the council to immediately close the reserve and begin half-hearted remediation work by using a mobile giant vacuum cleaner and then applying about 12 inches of clean fill on top.All of this was well documented in the Northern Star and the Echo.
    It would be interesting to know what the reading would be today if it was measured again with a geiger- counter.

  2. Footnote to my first comment:
    It was never disclosed what happened to the Zircon after it was removed. I hope it didn’t end up in the Myocum tip. The whole saga would make an interesting story.


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