Contaminated soil concerns

Future development plans for the State Heritage listed Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome have again been stirring up community concerns in Evans Head. President of the Evans Head Aerodrome Committee Dr Richard Gates has brought to light plans by Richmond Valley Council (RVC) to dump contaminated soil from its old depot site onto ground at the aerodrome that is being considered for an airpark.

“This has to be one of the dumbest solutions Council has ever entertained, close to its decision to discharge effluent from the sewerage treatment plant into the Evans River,” Dr Gates said.

The contaminated soil has come from aerodrome land which has historically been used for aviation purposes. Dr Gates said the soil was being removed to accommodate the building of a retirement village complex on the aerodrome site, with the bill for the removal being covered jointly by the Department of Defence and RVC.

“It makes no sense to be dumping contaminated soil on an area which is being considered for a residential airpark,” Dr Gates said. “That area will then need to be decontaminated. However it may be that Council is planning to scrap plans for an airpark altogether and use the land for industrial development.”

RVC mayor Col Sullivan said the contaminated soil would be treated to a level suitable for use in an industrial area “so that it will be decontaminated and fit for the purpose it is intended to be used for”. Cr Sullivan also said Council was still actively pursuing the airpark concept with the proponent and Dr Gates’ concerns were inaccurate.

Director of Evans Head Airpark Pty Ltd, Peter Lynch, said he was not phased by Council’s proposal to dump the soil onto the land near the proposed airpark, but wanted to make sure the soil wouldn’t be located where he planned to build residential dwellings.

“We are aware the material is treated to a low level and is only supposed to be placed in areas to be used for industrial purposes… and we are happy to rely on advice of experts in regard to the risks by contamination,” Mr Lynch said. “We are currently following formal procedure and writing a submission to Council to make sure that where the soil will be located won’t affect the development. I don’t want to have to kick it up and move it again.”

Dr Gates said the one of the diagrams contained in the plans for the proposed airpark shows an overlap between areas marked for residential development and where the contaminated soil is to be dumped.

“Therefore it is not an industrial site and higher standards for soil decontamination may apply,” Dr Gates said. “This is a clear waste of public money especially when you consider that the retirement village complex could be built on the original site at Evans Head for which it was granted a development application in September 2003. Council owns part of that land and the rest is soon to become available for residential development as Native Title is close to resolution… With the retirement village complex on its original site there would be little or no need for the ratepayers or the Department of Defence to fork out money for decontamination. The aerodrome site could be used for aviation purposes for which there is great opportunity.”

Part of the future plans for the historic aerodrome is to create an aviation museum and Mr Lynch said he was very supportive of the idea and hoped the Department of Defence would offer one of the recently decommissioned F1-11s for display in the museum.

Cr Sullivan said Dr Gates’ view that there is another site for an aged care facility in Evans Head was not true and that “Council is actively pursuing a solution to both contamination issues at the Aerodrome site and to provide a viable site for a much-needed aged care facility in Evans Head”.

Dr Gates said the plans to shift the contaminated soil are contained in a development application (DA 2011.097) on exhibition until November 10 this year and that if a member of the public wanted to view the DA, they would need to visit Council’s offices to read the plans, as they were not available electronically.

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