WHEN residents of the Williamtown, Salt Ash and Fullerton Cove areas were told abruptly to stop drinking bore water and eating locally produced food in September 2015, little did they know just what kind of experience they were in for.
As the impact of the water contamination saga continue to be felt some nine months later, residents are still demanding answers and coming up short.
State Member for Port Stephens and Shadow Minister for the Hunter, Kate Washington MP, along with Penny Sharpe MLC, Shadow Minister for the Environment, have stated that they will move to establish an Upper House inquiry into the ground water contamination and the government’s handling of the crisis, when parliament resumes in August.
The inquiry will focus on the roles the NSW State Government agencies have played in the discovery of the contamination and the inadequacy of the response.
Concerns include, the significant delay of government agencies, particularly the NSW Environmental Protection Agency (NSW EPA), in informing the local community of the contamination.
The lack of interagency communication between the NSW EPA, NSW Health, NSW Dept of Primary Industries and Hunter Water is also a concern.
The health impacts of firefighting foams on Rural Fire Service and NSW Fire and Rescue workers has been raided as an issue, along with the role of NSW Health in adopting safe drinking water guidelines up to 78 times higher than comparable guidelines in other jurisdictions around the world.
Penny Sharpe said, “This is an unmitigated disaster for the people who live in and around Williamtown.”
“The impact has been far-reaching and devastating – for families and their homes and property, for businesses and the local economy, for the region’s natural environment.”
“We need to understand the role the Baird/Grant Government in the crisis and why it didn’t act sooner to inform the community and immediately begin an operation to clean up the contamination,” said Shadow Minister Sharpe.
Kate Washington said, “We deserve to know why our own government authorities were seemingly unable to identify and adequately respond to such serious and ongoing contamination, and we must ensure this never happens again.”
By Jenny BAXTER