Boolaroo Action Group is calling on Lake Macquarie City Council to again defer new rules on cleaning up lead contamination until the NSW government commits to helping pay for it.
Councillors put off making a decision on the Standard Remedial Action Plan for contaminated land in July to give them time to meet with the government.
The plan makes a blanket assumption that 2300 houses at Boolaroo, Speers Point and Argenton have been polluted by the former Pasminco lead smelter and sets rules for how residents should clean up their blocks when they lodge development applications for new work.
The plan appeared again on the council's agenda late last week for debate on Monday night, but action group president Jim Sullivan said the policy still put the onus on residents to clean up pollution they had not caused.
"This needs to be deferred again until the minister outlines how it's going to be funded, because the government have not come up with any resolutions to the problem," he said. "This [council] report is exactly the same report. The only additional item to it is an environmental auditor's statement or report. This is not a science issue; it is a fairness issue."
The action group met with Environment Minister Matt Kean in September and planned to meet with him again in late December or January to try to secure a funding commitment.
"There's been no fixes from minister Kean," Mr Sullivan said. "As it is at the moment, the community affected by pollution are going to be the ones who have to fund the removal of it. That doesn't sit with the polluter-pays principle the government has preached to us."
The council's remedial action plan aims to reduce the cost of residential building projects by providing a standardised method of dealing with contamination, instead of site-specific rules.
Mr Sullivan, a retired environmental health officer at Lake Macquarie council, said residents were facing bills of about $50,000 to excavate their blocks, dump or cap contaminated soil and engage consultants to oversee the process.
Liberal councillor Jason Pauling, who led the push in July to defer the matter, said on Sunday that the "flaw" in the remediation plan remained unresolved.
"An innocent party paying for someone else's pollution that was allowed to occur in full knowledge of a state government for basically a century is fundamentally flawed," he said.
"Everyone knew lead was bad, they let it belch out everywhere. Innocent people, living nearby, covered in lead, potentially putting kids' IQs at risk, end up paying to clean up stuff. How is this right?"
He said the council was trying to streamline the DA process for affected residents, but the remediation plan risked formalising land owners' responsibility for dealing with contamination.
"I think it certainly leads to that, and I oppose it on those grounds."
The Environment Protection Authority entered into an agreement with City of Newcastle to waive the government levy on contaminated waste for north Lake Macquarie residents needing to dump polluted soil, reducing tip fees from $406 to $295 a tonne.
That initial deal ended several months ago, but the Newcastle Herald understands it has been extended twice, the last time until January.
- New Lake Macquarie City Council plan makes blanket 'assumption' more than 3000 properties are contaminated at Boolaroo
- Residents push for action on north Lake Macquarie lead pollution at packed community meeting
- Residents pay $70,000 to clean up block
- IKEA, Costco back on the table after government buys smelter land
- Newcastle Herald's Toxic Truth investigation