The Pasminco lead smelter closed down in 2003. But it left behind a toxic legacy that devastated the environment and the lives of residents living in the surrounding community.
In 2014, The Newcastle Herald revealed in a joint investigation with Macquarie University that, despite official assurances the area was safe, there were alarming levels of lead and other heavy metals found in homes and public places at Boolaroo, Speers Point and Argenton.
The operation to clean up the Pasminco area was said to be among the largest in ‘s history. It involved gaining NSW government approval in 2014 to place 1.9 million cubic metres of contaminated material into a 45-metre-high containment cell in a 19-hectare are on the site.
Explained: How dioxins affect the developing brainThe site was scraped back to the rock to remove contaminated material after the Herald’s investigation found that a state-sanctioned clean up of toxic land two years earlier at north Lake Macquarie had failed.
Dangerous levels of heavy metal pollution were found across three suburbs, a catalogue of government failings and residents feared sick from past exposure.
Lead experts said exposure to the contaminated soil and dust could cause sickness, brain damage, behavioural problems and retardation in children.
More than 130 soil and household dust samples were taken from homes, sports fields, parks and schools in Boolaroo, Speers Point, Argenton and Teralba as part of the joint Herald and Macquarie University investigation.
Results, analysed at the National Measurement Institute, found lead in soil more than 14 times the n residential standard of 300 parts per million (ppm) and arsenic inside a home almost 300 percent above the safe level.
The complete investiagtion2015Work starts to remove slag from foreshore– September 16Williamtown contamination handling under review– September 16Residents may sue Defence over toxic fire fighting foam– September 9Defence confirm contamination– September4Williamtown contamination: Authorities knew in ‘the last two weeks’– September 4Silence over toxic contamination angers community– September4Property owner monitors animals’ drinking water– September4Williamtown contaminated water warning– September3Hundreds of former Pasminco employees may be eligible for financial compensation, lawyer says– August 27Woman ‘duped’ over land sale– August 16Slag off: Mess to be fixed– August 11Containment cell proposed– August 6Lead contamination funding call– August 6Blood-lead test results please Boolaroo Action Group–July 21Toxic Truth: Blood tests begin, but parents still concerned– June 29.Free blood-lead tests for children offered with $20 gift voucher– June 28Free lead testing ‘too little too late’– June 24Pasminco clean-up ‘overdue’– June 23Call to completely remove black slag, not just cover it– June 22Exposed – black slag on lake shore uncovered by storm– June 21Lead levels in slag ‘30times over safe limit’– June 21Soil test results due soon– June 19Newcastle Herald wins UN World Environment Day award for Toxic Truth– June 5Experts slash lead exposure threshold– May 19Faster lead-blood level tests soon available– May 19Request like a lead balloon– May 15More spent on cows than people in lead protection– May 10Lead pollution group to work with community– May 1EDITORIAL: Time to end delay on lead– April 19Claims children used as pollution guinea pigs– April 19Flaws exposed in toxicity tests at home near Pasminco– April 9Pollution test results will be made public– March 20Lead levels put land on hold– March 20US case a positive precedent for lead lawsuit– March 19Fears of lead poisoning near former smelter– March 1Residents demand action over contamination– February 25Meeting to discuss Pasminco– February 24Cleaning up with $33m in fees– February 24Council to skip pollution forum– February 20Funds to renew blood testing– February 19Scientist returns to Boolaroo to dig up slag– February 5.Slag dumped at Speers Point park– January 72014Company hit leaching risk identified in report– December 28Slag taints foreshore– December 28Residents not aware of contamination– December 28GREG RAY: Either home or hosed– December 19Group seeks community rep on panel– December 18Group sorts out priorities– December 17Lead in petrol issue stole debate from Lake Macquarie health crisis– December 15Boolaroo lead problems sidelined– December 15We won’t back down– December 13Cap on contaminated soil too shallow for trees– December 13State ‘stonewalling’ on Boolaroo remediation– December 13OPINION: Boolaroo – the town I call home– December 13Residents demand Boolaroo clean up– December 12Pasminico remediation criticised– December 12Prisoners of propaganda– December 8Renewed hope for lead compo– December 6Baird will hear concerns over Pasminco legacy– December 5New home joy turned to shock at lead levels– December 4Wash, wipe you’ll be right– December 4’Cap and cover’ failed to protect– December 3Contamination fears for junior footballers– December 2Attempt to get more help for community– December 2Goodwill sought in land clean-up– December 1Patch test checks for safe soils– December 1Waiver deal could face legal challenge– December 1Residents outraged remediation no longer legally required– December 1Ian Kirkwood on Pasminco’s rocky road– December 1OPINION: Recollections of a great place to grow up– November 29OPINION: Pushing for people power– November 29Black slag spread in parks despite ‘possible health risks’– November 29Tests show high lead lurks in playgrounds– November 29Evidence of leaching ‘confirms’ suspicions– November 29Black slag risks ‘ignored’– November 29Lead found unsafe at any level in body– November 28Health risk disappearing without soil remediation– November 28‘We simply left the house empty and walked away’– November 28Poison’s legacy hangs heavy over adult lives– November 27Residents lived happily unaware of hidden poison– November 27Our children aren’t ‘canaries’– November 27Revealed: Link between violent crime and lead– November 27Pollution remains, despite ‘remediation site’ label– November 26Childhood spent in wastewater creek– November 26Fish contamination study call– November 26Conroy calls for EPA assurance– November 26MP calls for review into ‘failed’ smelter clean-up– November 25Councillors concerned by State failures– November 25Esperance lead clean-up best practice– November 25No escaping dust for neighbours of moonscape– November 25Professor warns of future chemical leak risk at Pasminco– November 24Pasminco clean-up complete– November 24Grid’s net was not cast widely enough: study– November 24Mixed emotions about a life spent at the smelter– November 24Residents feel neglected in ‘cover-up’– November 24Lead in their lives leaves bitter legacy– November 24Sad legacy of pollution– November 22Kids’ health major worry for parents– November 22Taxpayers to pay for clean-up– November 22In the shadow of the smelter– November 22Lead levels fluctuate wildly– November 22Boolaroo through and through– November 22Rise and fall in smelting moments– November 22Residents want profits for clean-up– November 22History of a heavy industry– November 22High volume heavy metal– November 22Testing methodology– November 22Reports on lead in Boolaroo– November 22Life at Boolaroo: The early years– November 21The Pasminco Story | Part OneThe Pasminco Story | Part TwoToxic Truth: Little Things MatterToxic Truth: Peter Lewis’ view