Finally, clean-up in sight

THE process to achieve the proper remediation of the old antimony processing plant at Urunga has commenced.

After years of being batted between government departments and coming on and off State government budgets, Bellingen Council's general manager Liz Jeremy this afternoon confirmed matters had been set in train by the Environmental Protection Authority with this ultimate aim in sight.

"The EPA is really serious about this, which is a good thing," Mrs Jeremy said.

The abandoned site has remained fenced off from public access for many years but photos sent to the Advocate by a local photographer in August put the matter back on the agenda.

"It appeared that new rubbish had been dumped on the site and the council is now arranging for that to be removed.

"The EPA has also arranged a special contractor to remove a number of drums found there."

The drums contained a red substance that has been identified as the oxidising agent sodium dichromate.

Also this afternoon, EPA director of specialised regulation, Craig Lamberton, said Environmental Trust Emergency Waste Clean-Up funds had been used to finance this initial stage.

"This pool of funds allows for the speedy clean-up of waste when responsibility is unclear," Mr Lamberton said.

"The next phase is how to deal with the legacy of the site - we have sent draft orders to the responsible landowners and are now awaiting their comments.

"The draft orders are the beginning of a step-wise plan to work through the clean-up."

He said soil samples taken from the adjacent wetlands had been forwarded to a laboratory in Queensland for testing with results expected soon.

In the past obstacles to a successful clean-up have included issues over ownership, responsibility and funding for what will be an expensive operation.

The site is east of the Pacific Highway, off Hillside Drive at Urunga.

It was used to crush and process antimony that had been mined on the Dorrigo Plateau by Broken Hill Antimony Pty Ltd. The land was sold into private ownership in 1984.

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