It has taken 34 years but work is underway on the clean-up of one of the most polluted parcels of industrial land in Newcastle.
A 10-metre deep concrete wall that will tap into bedrock and wrap around three sides of the former Newcastle gasworks site will prevent contaminants from escaping.
The land will then be capped with clay before being opened as a commercial and industrial precinct.
Jemena bought the site, which operated as a gasworks between 1911 and 1985, from AGL in 2006.
Project director Oliver King said the company hoped the $11 million rehabilitation project will be completed by next July.
"We're open to having conversations with any parties who may be interested in the purchase of the site following the remediation works, however at this stage we have not made any decisions about the site's future use," Mr King at the start of works on Tuesday.
An analysis of contaminants revealed a range of known carcinogens, potentially carcinogenic compounds and toxic compounds including benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), total recoverable hydrocarbons (TRH), benzo(a)pyrene, cyanide, ammonia and lead.
A 2016 report noted some of the toxins, including cyanide, ammonia and lead, were leaching into groundwater and posed a risk to human health and the Hunter River, NSW Department of Planning documents show.
More than 65,000 cubic metres of overburden to a depth of four metres below ground level was found to be contaminated.
The cap and contain approach to remediating the site was criticised during the public exhibition period by some who believed the land should be rehabilitated to a standard suitable for residential housing.
Mr King said the cap and contain method had been used successfully in the clean up of other former gas works sites.
"It is not dissimilar to other cap and contain philosophies," he said.
"It's a large site so it's up there in terms of complexity."
Numerous false starts to rehabilitate the strategically positioned parcel of land have resulted in it lying idle for more than three decades.
A proposal in the early 2000s to use part of the site for a transport interchange didn't eventuate.
But it's proximity to the Broadmeadow sports and entertainment precinct, which is the subject of a state government-backed concept masterplan, could now make it a potentially attractive investment.
The site includes a locally-listed heritage building adjacent to the railway line which will be protected during the remediation works.
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