Salt Ash soil not contaminated says Port Stephens Council

SOIL STINK: Lisa Gregory, president of Salt Ash Pony Club, and Port Stephens councillor Geoff Dingle at the soil dump site in Alexander Park, Salt Ash, in December 2-15. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
SOIL STINK: Lisa Gregory, president of Salt Ash Pony Club, and Port Stephens councillor Geoff Dingle at the soil dump site in Alexander Park, Salt Ash, in December 2-15. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

PORT Stephens Council has hit back at claims that soil dumped at Salt Ash equestrian centre is contaminated.

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, the council refuted recent media reports that the NSW Environment Protection Agency has ordered it to remove the 2000 tonne dirt pile.

“The NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) letter referenced in reporting by the Newcastle Herald today [Friday, February 19] and on Radio 2HD on Wednesday-Thursday is months old and does not reflect the ongoing nature of negotiations between council and the EPA,” the statement said.

“The letter in question, received on December 8 2015, was not an order or a direction.

“Negotiations between council and the EPA have been conducted over many months in good faith and, as recently as this morning, officers from the EPA have reiterated to council their comfort with where the situation currently stands.”

The soil was dumped at the equestrian centre, adjacent to where the Salt Ash Pony Club meets, in August 2015 for the purpose of building a BMX track.

It was Port Stephens Mayor Bruce MacKenzie who directed the soil from earthworks in Peppertree Road, Medowie to the Salt Ash site.

“For quite some time, I have been trying to provide the kids of this area with a bike track so I decided to take advantage of the Peppertree Road development to have the dirt moved,” Cr MacKenzie told the Examiner in October.

A fence was installed around the pile in November after contamination concerns were raised.

At the time of the dumping, Lisa Gregory, president of the Salt Ash Pony Club, said her major concern was for the safety of both club members and bike riders.

“The problem is that the BMX track will be open all day every day without adult supervision," she told the Examiner in November.

“This poses a serious safety and security concern; how can we stop the bike riders from coming into our enclosure?”

The council had the soil tested, which was independently verified by Cardno Geotech Specialists.

The results were made public, on the council’s website, in October.

“Previously, the stockpile also contained a small amount of material (predominantly road base) from works at the Salt Ash Hall, which was subsequently removed in consultation with the EPA in early January,” the council statement said.

“At around the same time, again in consultation with the EPA, the stockpile was covered and treated with liquid lime to manage acidity levels (which, for clarity, does not mean the soil is acid sulfate).”

The council statement also refuted claims that the soil was related to any works on private property owned by Cr MacKenzie.

The council’s application to NSW EPA to use the soil for a BMX track was expected to be assessed in coming weeks.

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