HUNTER Water has confirmed asbestos has been found in the former council rubbish dump exposed by erosion on Stockton beach and a disused sewage pond on the site is at risk of falling into the sea.
An assessment revealed this week that one of three decommissioned and emptied sewage ponds is now just 10 metres from the high-tide mark, as the ocean continues to erode the coastline.
Hunter Water’s spokeswoman said a long-term plan for the troubled site was still in development. Contractors using heavy machinery began temporary work on Thursday to seal off the tip using geo-fabric in a bid to halt the spill of garbage into the water.
Large volumes of plastic bags and bottles could still be seen floating in the water south of the tip on Thursday. Beachgoers reported having plastic bags wrapped around their legs as they got out of the water and wildlife groups feared an influx of sick sea life in the coming weeks.
Hunter Wildlife Rescue spokeswoman Audrey Koosman said the area was heavily populated with turtles, penguins, sea birds and fish.
A Hunter Water spokeswoman said five tests conducted at the tip site on Monday returned a sample “confirming the presence of friable asbestos”. Air monitoring in the area has not detected asbestos.
Further samples were taken from the landfill on Tuesday testing for a range of organic pollutants and heavy metals, as well as the stability of the material.
“The purpose of this testing is to determine where the appropriate disposal location would be for the material, should it be taken off site,” the spokeswoman said.
“There is no risk to surrounding residents as a result of these works, however, Hunter Water again asks for the public’s cooperation in staying away from the site until rectification works are complete.”
Signs and temporary fencing installed last week will remain in place. Geo-fabric sand containers, or bags, are being manufactured interstate and will be used as a defensive barrier against the erosion.
Initial works involve four excavators and a geo-fabric covering to contain the waste.
The spokeswoman said the 15.3-hectare Hunter Water site, north of Corroba Oval, included about five hectares leased to Newcastle City Council for the tip.
Council’s spokesman said it ran a landfill on the site from 1964 to 1971. “We are still investigating exactly how it was used given the period was more than 50 years ago,” he said.
A council tractor swept the south end of Stockton beach for rubbish on Wednesday and will return next week.
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