STOCKTON MEET: Brian Byers speaking at the public meeting in Stockton on September 16. Picture: Ellie-Marie WattsAnger at meeting on Williamtown water contamination
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THE NSW Government is setting up a community consultative committee for the Williamtown water contamination, following a public show of anger by residents feeling left in the dark about the issue.
Parliamentary secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald MLC, told the Examiner on Monday that the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet was in the process of forming the committee’s terms of reference and that NSW Premier Mike Baird would visit the area in “the near future”.
“The Premier is under no illusions about how concerned the community is about this issue,” Mr MacDonald said.
It comes after the Stockton RSL Club hosted a Department of Defence-led public meeting about the contamination on September 16.
Defence, NSW Government agencies and Hunter Water briefed the 150 residents in attendance on what they then knew about the chemicals perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which had been detected in ground water on Williamtown RAAF Base plus water sources and some fish in Williamtown and Fullerton Cove.
The meeting only fuelled residents’ anger and disbelief with questions concerning health, compensation and how long Defence, government agencies and Port Stephens Council had known about the issue not adequately answered.
STOCKTON MEET: Residents filled Stockton RSL Club on September 16 for the public meeting on Williamtown water contamination.
It was only in the dying moments of the meeting that Hunter region manager for NSW Environment Protection Agency, Adam Gilligan, answered why the community was not told about the contamination in 2012 when the EPA was first informed about it by Defence.
“We made a conscious decision based on a detailed risk assessment that this sort of alert was not warranted at the time,” Mr Gilligan said.
When asked why Defence had not informed Port Stephens Council of the issue in 2013 when it started a stage one environmental assessment, Greg Divall, head of infrastructure for the Department of Defence, said a letter was sent to the council at the time.
Port Stephens Council general manager Wayne Wallis said council officers were confidentially briefed in 2012 then received a letter from Defence in May 2013.
“The letter alerted council officers to the issue but indicated that, at that early stage, further research was needed to understand the possible risks,” Mr Wallis said.
“Given the initial advice did not indicate immediate cause for alarm and that further investigations were under way, councillors were not briefed on the matter at the time.”
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