IN the years before he died of cancer in 2008, aged 65, John Callinan would tell his wife about the latest tests for contamination at the old AGL Hamilton Gasworks.
He worked on the site on and off from the 1980s until 2007.
‘‘I remember John saying ‘They were in there again today taking soil samples’, but nothing happened,’’ his widow Joy Callinan said.
‘‘He would talk about how much earth was going to have to be taken off the top to get rid of all the contamination.
‘‘At one stage they were talking about a transport interchange and then a caravan park there.’’
Mrs Callinan contacted the Newcastle Herald after articles about planned remediation of the gasworks 30 years after its closure, and reports showing carcinogenic and toxic materials were leaching into groundwater.
‘‘I feel angry that it was allowed to go on for so long without AGL doing anything, or the government making AGL clean up the site.
‘‘They really did turn a blind eye to it.’’
Carol Brookfield lived at a house on the gasworks site from the age of 9 in 1956 while her father, Gordon Dalton-Kirby, was superintendent.
Her family swapped from the larger of the two gasworks homes to the smaller one, to make way for the Frost family with its eight children.
Mrs Brookfield said she was disgusted with both AGL and the NSW government for allowing the site to remain derelict for three decades, despite studies showing it was a potential health risk.
She contacted the Herald after reading about the disturbingly high rate of cancers and other serious conditions in the Frost family.
‘‘AGL’s got a lot to answer for,’’ Mrs Brookfield said.
Virginia Frost was the first of the Frost daughters to be diagnosed with cancer.
‘‘I was 47 and we had no history of breast cancer on either side of the family,’’ Ms Frost said.
‘‘I just thought it was the luck of the draw. Then [her sisters] Dominique and Corinne were diagnosed, and it all started to snowball.’’
Ms Frost was shocked that AGL declined to answer Herald questions about why it failed to remediate the site, and referred them to Jemena, which now owns the site. AGL said it had no relationship with Jemena.
The government’s failure to act for decades was also ‘‘incredibly disappointing’’, she said.
Dallas Jones worked on the AGL site for a brief period, and remains in touch with former colleagues.
He was most worried about families living near the site.
‘‘It doesn’t affect me where I live, but it’s the people who live around there who we should be thinking about,’’ he said.
REMEDIATION work at the old Hamilton gasworks site will not start until the first half of 2017 at the earliest, Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said after a meeting with owner Jemena.
The work could be delayed even longer if public complaints see the proposed work referred to the NSW Planning Assessment Commission. Jemena has owned the site since 2006.
During a meeting with Planning Minister Rob Stokes last week, Mr Crakanthorp forwarded a list of questions, including why the Environment Protection Authority failed to act against then owner AGL from 1988 until 2006, when AGL launched a formal remediation process. It was withdrawn in early 2007.
Mr Stokes has also been asked why the EPA failed to act between 2006 and 2011 when it declared the site ‘‘significantly contaminated land’’.