State Govt passes Coramba fuel spill buck

By BELINDA SCOTT

PETER Atwill says the issue of benzene contamination in Coramba is 'bigger than me' and should be taken away from his control and run by the Department of Environment and Conservation.

Mr Atwill is feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility of spearheading the investigation into benzene pollution in the town.

Coramba residents Peter and Belinda Atwill have been battling to have authorities investigate and fix a benzene contamination problem since they discovered petrol seeping out of a bank on their land in January, 2002.

The Coffs Coast Advocate publicised their plight in March this year and has been following their story since.

It is widely acknowledged that the problem, believed to originate in a leak from a former petrol tank at the Coramba Service Station, stretches well beyond the boundary of the Attwills' land.

The issue moved into the national spotlight over the week- end, when the Attwills' story was featured on television and a national newspaper.

Mr Atwill said yesterday the test drilling program for the investigation and remediation action plan was finished, but he would not know the extent or the levels of contamination found until all tests were done and the project manager completed his report.

He said test drilling wells from two metres to 18 metres deep had been conducted in several areas of Coramba, but with each well costing up to $7000 for drilling and testing, the work was limited by the $320,000 granted for the project by the Department of the Environment (DEC).

"I can only stretch that so far," he said.

"There were quite a few wells and quite a few had levels of contamination. More investigations may have to be done."

A spokesman for the DEC said the final report was not expected to be available for another couple of months. He said considerable effort was being directed towards determining the extent of the problem and the time taken by investigations reflected the complexity of the problem.



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