It has taken years of a Hunter community living with a "ticking environmental time bomb", but the state government's acquisition of the polluted Truegain site - six years after it was abandoned - is a "huge win", a NSW Labor MP says.
The Newcastle Herald reported on Friday that the government has obtained the Rutherford property and plans to spend about $20 million remediating the heavily-contaminated block.
It comes after the Herald's long-running campaign focusing on years of contamination that took place at the Kyle Street business and the fallout in the form of water, soil and air pollution.
"This whole sorry saga highlights the importance of prompt action on pollution," Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison said on Friday.
"It has taken five environment ministers under this government to get the change we have needed. It's taken six years since the plant was shut down that we have had a ticking environmental time bomb in our midst.
"The positive legacy of this will be the legislative change, which Labor pressured the government to make last year, to make the EPA [Environment Protection Authority] take action against polluters earlier.
"Pollution has massive long-term consequences and it's a huge win for all those people who have advocated for so long."
The clean-up will be completed in two stages - all structures will be demolished and waste removed before soil and groundwater remediation begins.
Ramona Cocco, a Rutherford resident and leading voice calling for action, said the property remained a "blight on the landscape".
"I'm glad that the government has [acquired] it, because it's a toxic site - it's a toxic wasteland, if anything. What they're going to do with it, I don't know," she said.
"I hope that it can be cleaned up - I don't think $20 million is going to suffice."
Truegain, also known as Australian Waste Oil Refineries, went into liquidation after Hunter Water discovered it was releasing foam containing PFAS into the sewer. A Herald investigation in 2018 revealed that millions of litres of contaminants were dumped on the ground and into a nearby waterway over many years.
Former company director and site owner Robert Pullinger is facing criminal proceedings in the Land and Environment Court after he declared bankruptcy when the EPA ordered him to pay $1.2 million to cover the cost of remediation.
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