Chemical fears at airport’s ILS site fuel call to halt work
FEARS land and water could be contaminated on the proposed site of Gold Coast Airport’s instrument landing system (ILS) have prompted concerned residents to call for a government investigation.
Opponents of the airport expansion have also called on the Federal Government to halt the ILS development after potential contamination was revealed in the final ILS Major Development Plan (MDP).
Tweed local and Greens candidate for Richmond, Dawn Walker, said AirServices Australia had conducted fire training exercises on the site using firefighting foam.
“This foam contains contaminants such as perflurooctane sulfonate and perflurooctanoic acid which were recently revealed to have contaminated land at Williamtown RAAF Base and Newcastle Airport,” Ms Walker said.
She said these two contaminants did not break down in the environment.
“The water table chart contained in previous studies shows groundwater flows to Bilinga, where many residents use spear pumps,” Ms Walker said.
“Worryingly, the ILS development has been excluded from the requirement to undertake an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
“These revelations of contamination raise serious concerns about the environmental impact of the ILS development, particularly in how it could affect the health of nearby residents and the Cobaki and Terranora broadwaters.
“The ILS development should be halted until a full EIA and EPA investigation is undertaken. The health of our community and the environment are too precious to risk.”
Gold Coast Airport chief operation officer Marion Charlton said construction for the ILS – and also the airport expansion Project LIFT – was due to start by mid-year.
“With the formal development approval process for the ILS now complete, we are focused on moving into the next phase of the project – with construction scheduled for completion in 2017, ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games,” Ms Charlton said.
An ILS is necessary to provide the airport with the same technology already installed in Australia’s other leading airports, according to Gold Coast Airport management.
The system is touted to boost reliability, reduce disruptions and help make the Gold Coast a more appealing and reliable tourism and business destination.
Ms Charlton said yesterday the presence of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) had been identified.
“Testing and management was being undertaken in accordance with guidelines issued by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development,” she said.
“Presence of PFCs, including proposed management measures, was addressed in the Major Development Plan for Project LIFT and the ILS project.”
North Coast Greens MP Jan Barham and environment spokeswoman Dr Mehreen Faruqi have called on the NSW Government to investigate and provide information about the soil contamination involving potentially carcinogenic chemicals.
“I’ve lodged questions on notice in Parliament asking the Environment Minister whether the NSW Government had been informed about this contamination and seeking an investigation of the extent of the contamination and the risks it might pose to the surrounding region,” Dr Faruqi said.
“The Cobaki Broadwater and its biodiversity deserve protection under the Ramsar Convention so it’s crucial for the minister to ensure there is no risk to the wetland and the Tweed region.”
Ms Barham said she was troubled that information about potential contamination had only come to light after the airport’s proposed ILS was approved and the final MDP was released.
“The draft plan that was released for public comments last year didn’t mention these chemicals, despite the fact that their use in firefighting was discontinued around 2010,” she said.
Ms Barham on Thursday called on the Minister for Primary Industries, Lands and Water Niall Blair to halt the installation of the ILS on NSW Crown land until a full investigation of the potential impacts had been undertaken.
Mr Blair said in Parliament that investigations of chemical contamination were led by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) which had developed a program to check for contamination at sites including airports.
“The EPA will provide updates to the community and other key stakeholders,” he said.
In his notice of approval of the ILS in January this year, then Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss noted that “appropriate measures to reasonably manage environmental impacts during the construction and operational phases of the (ILS)” should be taken by the Gold Coast Airport.
“The environmental management plans should include appropriate monitoring and reporting of water quality, drainage, acid sulphate soils and other factors that may impact the local environment,” Mr Truss said.
On its website, Gold Coast Airport maintains that the MDP contains an environmental assessment which included consideration of potential impacts to land, surface water, groundwater, habitat values, significant species and cultural heritage.
“Key mitigation measures for the project will be incorporated into construction and/or operational plans, and will focus on such things as resource use; management of dust, erosion and sedimentation, management of acid sulphate soils; management of contaminated land, surface and ground water, vegetation management, significant species management, cultural heritage, air quality, light, noise and hazardous materials.”
Groups from the Gold Coast and Tweed Shire protesting against the airport expansion – which includes the ILS, Project LIFT and a possible runway extension – met on Monday night at South Tweed Community Centre.
More than 100 people attended.
Ms Charlton said on Thursday there was no runway extension proposed.
A petition circulated at the meeting called on the NSW Government to investigate the circumstances surrounding Crown land being transferred to the Gold Coast Airport.
Ms Barham said public land had been given away by the Federal Government to a private entity, the Gold Coast Airport.
“That’s not right - we know it’s not right,” she said.