Bureaucracies are often content with producing long reports on scandals, essentially "kicking the ball into the long grass".
The Williamtown PFAS contamination situation has, sadly, been subjected to this spineless political method.
As the Herald reports today, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade has issued its third and final report on PFAS contamination.
The 129-page report offers no real progress, leaving the community feeling frustrated and helpless.
Salt Ash resident Rob Roseworn said there had been no progress on the prospect of the government buying contaminated land from affected residents.
The PFAS sub-committee made eight recommendations in its final report. These recommendations make clear that communication between the government and affected residents remains a big problem.
This in itself is disgraceful, let alone the lack of focus on real justice for residents.
Fullerton Cove resident Lindsay Clout told the committee that, six years into the scandal, "not one gram of contaminated soil, nor one litre of contaminated water has been removed from my property". Other residents were in the same situation.
The recommendations do, at least, urge the federal government to examine suitable options for people to reduce high levels of PFAS in their blood.
The report followed a government-funded Australian National University study, released last December, finding "clear evidence" of elevated concentrations of PFAS in the blood of residents and workers in Williamtown, which "increased psychological distress".
Yet the study failed to find "conclusive, causative links between PFAS exposure and other adverse health outcomes", which residents in the Williamtown red zone disputed.
The Department of Defence has spent more than $100 million in recent years to mitigate the impact of PFAS from its properties around Australia, with a significant amount of this money spent at Williamtown.
Mr Clout acknowledged to the committee that the Department of Defence was "having a red-hot crack at cleaning up this mess", but he felt other government agencies were "sitting on the sidelines".
The federal government did pay $86 million in compensation two years ago to members of the class action for the PFAS pollution, but some residents were disappointed with the payout.
It's clear that more needs to be done to right the wrongs done at Williamtown.
With a federal election coming up, residents will be eager to know whether the major parties are capable of retrieving the ball from the long grass and running with it.
Residents have waited far too long - and have far too little to show for it.
- Damon Cronshaw, the author of this piece, is a reporter for the Newcastle Herald
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