THE state’s environmental watchdog has ordered Port Stephens Council to remove 2000 tonnes of contaminated building waste dumped at a council-owned Salt Ash equestrian park on the direction of mayor Bruce MacKenzie.
The council on Thursday confirmed it was questioning the direction requiring it to dispose of the soil at a lawful waste facility, after revealing the soil dumping exercise has cost ratepayers $40,000 so far.
That bill will get “significantly” higher, the council said, if the Environment Protection Authority rejects the council’s argument the material can be “re-used”, and it is forced to pay tipping fees.
Council has told the EPA the material should remain to establish a BMX facility.
But Port Stephens MP Kate Washington, Port Stephens councillor Geoff Dingle and Salt Ash Pony Club president Lisa Gregory say the huge expense and problems with the EPA are a mess of the council’s own making.
“We were told this soil was dumped here to build a BMX facility for kids because the council only had $10,000 for the project, and not one cent more,” Mrs Gregory said.
“Port Stephens ratepayers who couldn’t care less about a BMX track might prick their ears when they hear it’s going to cost a lot of money to remove this fill to a place that can actually receive it.”
In October Mr MacKenzie confirmed the soil was dumped at Alexander Park at Salt Ash because ‘‘I’m going to get this BMX track done come hell or high water’’.
In a statement in October the council said the soil came from a council development site at Medowie and a car park at Salt Ash hall. The council has repeatedly said the material was free of contamination, including in a statement to the Newcastle Herald on Thursday.
In December the EPA included the Alexander Park site in an “ongoing criminal investigation” of building waste at Mr MacKenzie’s family sand quarry business, after confirming acid sulfate contamination. The investigation included the origin of the soil that contains building waste.
Ms Washington said the council needed to come clean “to tell us exactly how this has all come about.”
Mr Dingle said the amount of building waste in the soil made it completely unsuitable for a BMX facility.
Mrs Gregory said the community would be horrified at the thought of having to pay expensive tipping fees per tonne for 2000 tonnes of material “that shouldn’t have been dumped here in the first place”.
“What happens to the BMX facility children were promised by the council?” she said.
Mr MacKenzie declined to answer questions.
“Don’t bother ringing me because I’m not going to talk to you,” he said.