Aerodrome clean-up to cost $6.3m

Contaminated soil found at Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome site will cost $6.3 million to clean up.

The land, earmarked for an aged care facility, has been found to be polluted with coal tar and heavy metals most likely a result of its use as an airforce base during World War II.

Richmond Valley Council has asked the Department of Defence to contribute to the clean-up.

General manager Brian Wilkinson said the department was waiting on a report covering the historical uses of the land before announcing how much it will chip in for remediation.

Parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Defence, Peter Lindsay, confirmed that Defence would work cooperatively with Council on the issue.

Defence has not owned or operated from the aerodrome since 1952, he said. Defence considers it unlikely that the soil contamination detected at this site could be solely attributed to Defence activities so long ago. Nevertheless, I recognise the importance of providing for aged care facilities in the Richmond Valley Council area and I am committed to working cooperatively with the relevant stake-holders to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,

Council officers met with representatives of the Department of Defence, the state Department of Planning, the state Department of Environment and Conservation and the North Coast Area Health Services Public Health Unit last Friday to brief them on how Council was dealing with the contamination.

The plan is to scoop up and remove the polluted soil and replace is with a layer of clean soil.

The toxic soil may turn out to be an even bigger can of worms when testing on nearby residential properties, on former aerodrome land is completed.

Mr Wilkinson said Councils focus was now on assisting nearby residents to understand the clean-up process.

As soon as the scientific studies are complete we will be releasing them to the public, he said.

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