The layout of the proposed Clarence Valley Council depot on the corner of Skinner and Tyson sts, South Grafton.
The layout of the proposed Clarence Valley Council depot on the corner of Skinner and Tyson sts, South Grafton.

Residents call for stop work after asbestos find

WORK on the Clarence Valley Council's $13 million super depot should stop immediately following the discovery of about 900kg of bonded asbestos on the site, say South Grafton residents.

At a public meeting on Thursday, called to discuss the issue, South Grafton resident Mark Butler said work should cease until further extensive testing on the site was done.

Mr Butler, who can see the depot 500m from his house in Moorehead Dr, said there needed to be deep core drilling of the entire site to discover the amount of asbestos that had been dumped on the site.

He described the initial testing as flawed because it was only done on selected parts of the site.

"Basically the council was saying drill here, drill there and, when they didn't find anything, they went ahead with it," Mr Butler said.

"But anecdotally lots of people knew there had been asbestos dumped at the site for more than 40 years.

"And now they've been proven right."

Mr Butler said the council should consider closing the site and completely sealing it, if it turned out there was more asbestos there than had been uncovered.

"Basically (the) council does not know what's there and, until they do, they should stop work and do more testing to find out.

"There's always been problems with the way the council pushed this depot through, but we've got to this point.

"Now they have to make sure what they do from now on does not create a medical emergency."

Mr Butler was critical of the way the council ran the public meeting, but said it did give residents a chance to have their say.

"The feeling I got was the council was trying to control it and tried to shut down any difficult questions," Mr Butler said.

Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons was at the meeting and shared the concerns of residents, especially the worries about the proximity to South Grafton High School.

"At least we should look at stopping work until the start of the school holidays," Cr Simmons said.

The mayor was also surprised to learn the contractors, Hutchinsons Builders, had not installed air monitoring stations beyond the boundaries of the site on the corner of Rushforth Rd and Tyson St.

"I don't understand why they haven't done that," he said.

However, Cr Simmons was confident the contractors had the expertise to deal with the find.

Cr Simmons said the absence of the Environmental Protection Agency from the meeting had concerned him.

"I understand they had their reasons ... but I plan to get in contact with them," he said.

He was also surprised spokespeople from other government agencies, like WorkSafe, did not have more input at the meeting.

The mayor said the council owned the site and was obliged to remediate it.

"We would have had to fix it up whether or not there was a depot going on it," he said.

"There was a lot of emotion at that meeting, perhaps rightly so.

"Council needs to address their concerns about the asbestos on the site and also the dust which is blowing onto the properties."

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