Today Member for Newtown and NSW Greens Spokesperson for WestConnex Jenny Leong highlighted ongoing community concerns around the works happening at sites contaminated by asbestos that are part of the proposed WestConnex project.
She asked NSW Premier Mike Baird what action he would take to protect residents, workers and business owners from exposure to asbestos, given reports of serious concerns that contractors are not adhering to safety procedures.
WestConnex has not provided an Environmental Impact Statement for any remediation or excavation work at the St Peters site and there have been multiple reports of unsafe procedures and inadequate monitoring by the EPA since the work commenced two months ago. Asbestos contamination is also evident all along the M4 East site.
The Premier undertook to investigate specific concerns, noting the Government’s 'obligation to ensure that everything possible is done'.
He said: “In terms of the Landfill site, it was an existing waste facility and I have been advised that a material containing asbestos has been on that site for many many years. Clearly having acquired it as part of the project we now need to deal with it. And I am advised that everything is being monitored and everything is being dealt with as it should be dealt with.”
“Now if there are specific concerns I am happy for them to be addressed and we can have them investigated because clearly there is an obligation to ensure that everything possible is done.”
So far, huge quantities of material containing asbestos have been excavated and transported from the Alexandria Land Fill site in St Peters to a waste disposal centre in Erskine Park. Residents have reported significant breaches of basic safety precautions in St. Peters and there are serious concerns with the procedures at Erskine Park.
WestConnex has also uneartheded large amounts of asbestos contaminated soil from the M4East widening project and is storing it in piles next to residential houses in Granville. Asbestos has also reportedly been found in works areas along the M4 in Auburn near public schools and preschools - and residents have not been adequately informed as WestConnex states that the asbestos is within the site parameters.
There are many concerns around how all of this contamination is being dealt with.
- There have been reports that trucks loaded with contaminated materials have not been properly covered or watered down as they leave the Alexandria Land Fill site.
- The Environmental Defenders Office has put questions to the WestConnex Development Authority (WDA) as to the authority, consents and licenses regarding works at the Alexandria Land Fill site.
- Residents were told that no remediation work would be done at the Alexandria Land Fill site prior to the release of an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) but this has not been done.
- The WDA say they have no obligation to tell residents about asbestos discovered within the project site, hence residents in Granville and Auburn were not notified of the contamination near their homes.
You can read more about WestConnex's asbestos problem at the independent online journal New Matilda.