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Critics fear poisons leaking to harbour

Sydney Morning Herald

Friday March 4, 2011


SECTIONS of the Barangaroo site are heavily contaminated but the area approved for a massive underground car park contained lower-grade contaminants similar to those previously found at King Street Wharf, Lend Lease says.The company's spokesman for the project, David Hutton, said 200 bore holes had been drilled to get a better understanding of the pollution left over from the gasworks that first operated on the site in 1839.While pollution in the car park site was not a major issue, critics of the Barangaroo development fear once excavation begins, sub-surface rocks will fracture across the site.They say that will allow groundwater in the most contaminated part of the site, which the Environmental Protection Authority had listed as a "declared area", to flow more readily into the harbour.Lend Lease recently received a report from a technical services consultancy, AECOM, called a Data Gap Investigation, which answers questions from 10 previous investigations and provides further detail on the extent of the pollution in the declared area.Mr Hutton said the AECOM report contained "no big surprises" but it was not yet certain if it would be possible to fully remediate the declared area, located to the north of where the commercial buildings will be constructed.Among the pollutants found on the site is the highly carcinogenic chemical benzo(a)pyrene, which has been found at 326 times the upper level of concern for parks or playgrounds, according to a source who has seen the AECOM report.Lead was found at levels 23 times the upper level of concern, while other compounds include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which were found at levels up to 1032 times the upper level of concern for parks or playgrounds, the source said.The report says that groundwater is present at depths of 1.38 to 2.92 metres right across the site, which is made up of fill dumped on the old finger wharves when the container wharf was created. The water contains lead, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, mercury, nickel, zinc, benzene, napthalene phenol and ammonia, the report says. "The most significant groundwater contamination was identified in the immediate vicinity of the former gasworks infrastructure and contamination is present in both dissolved and free phase forms," it says."Concentrations of contaminants in excess of the assessment criteria were also identified in down-gradient wells, indicating a westerly migration of contamination."Mr Hutton said a lot of infill sites around the world were contaminated and had been remediated and Lend Lease was determined to do that at Barangaroo. "There's an opportunity to clean up this site, there's a risk of water seeping into the harbour and remediation must be done thoroughly."Editorial, LettersPage 10

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