Less words, more action


PETER and Belinda Attwill feel as though they have been hitting their heads against a brick wall, and as far as they're concerned the latest development in the Coramba benzene contamination saga is just more words and little action.

The couple have been trying to get their Martin Street property cleaned up for the past four years since discovering it is contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen.

Last week, Coramba residents received a letter from the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) advising them of the results of air testing in the area.

The letter said the results were 'well below National Environmental Protection Measure's health investigation level'.

It added the levels were typical of those previously measured by DEC in other country area, and 1/10 of the average benzene concentrations found in inner Sydney.

But the Attwills say the testing method used did not meet world standards, and the heavy rain on the day compromised results, as rainfall decreases vapour emissions ? although DEC says the rain's impact was insignificant.

Their main question though is why this testing wasn't done four years ago, and what they would like to see most of all is the soil and groundwater report, which they say is well overdue.

"It was supposed to come out in early August," Belinda Attwill said.

"It's now October, and we still haven't seen it, and can't even get confirmation we're going to get a copy. The frustration is enormous."

DEC's director of specialised regulation Craig Lamberton said the department was just as keen as residents to get the final report ? being prepared by consultants ? which he confirmed would be made public.

He said the delay was caused by the fact the report had to be independently audited because it would form the basis for the Remediation Action Plan.

"The report will hopefully give us an outline of the extent of contamination," Mr Lamberton said.

"The problem with environmental clean up is that while the problems are easily caused they are difficult to clean up, and without being properly evaluated, you can waste of lot of money and time."

Mr Lamberton said once the report was finalised, DEC would be happy to meet with the community and answer all questions.

DEC's letter also said the air testing had been done in consultation with Coffs Harbour City Council, but council's general manager Stephen Sawtell consultation was limited.

"The only consultation done was a request as to where council thought extra sampling could be done. The rest of that letter is solely DEC's undertakings and comments," Mr Sawtell said.

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