Peter Attwill
Peter Attwill

Contamination legal stoush ends

SHALLOW victory was the term chosen by Peter Attwill to describe the end of the four-year legal fight over the contamination of his Coramba property by unleaded petrol leaking from the town’s service station.

Following a drawn-out Supreme Court process, Peter and Belinda Attwill reached an out-of-court settlement with the owners of the Coramba Service Station on February 28 which saw the Attwills’ costs covered.

Mr Attwill said they had dropped proceedings against Coffs Harbour City Council, which was also a defendant in the case.

The council was drawn into the case because the unleaded petrol crossed under land owned by the council to reach the Attwills property.

Coffs Harbour City Council’s legal costs will be covered by its insurers.

Mr Attwill said he was still in a position where he could not sell or finance his home.

He said his property still carried a 149 certificate which showed the land as a contaminated site with a significant risk of harm.

“It’s a beautiful spot but you still get the smell when the river level drops,” he said.

In 2002 Peter Attwill discovered what turned out to be unleaded petrol seeping from a bank near the bottom of his property, on the bank of the Orara River at Coramba.

He reported the strong-smelling leak to Coffs Harbour City Council, setting in train a chain of events which has enmeshed the Attwill family in years of meetings, research, studies, investigations, negotiations and endless reams of correspondence.

Coffs Harbour City Council changed the intake for Coramba’s water supply to ensure it was not contaminated and is overseeing a remediation process funded by the NSW Environmental Trust.

The contamination is understood to be the result of unleaded petrol that leaked from an underground fuel tank at the service station in Gale Street.

The leaking tank and most of the contaminated soil at the service station were removed in 2002.

The ongoing source of contamination is the residual petrol, some of which is in a dissolved state in groundwater at the bedrock level.

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