CONTAMINATION FEARS: Mooball children's playground at Pottsville Rd.  Below: Extracts from NSW Government files.
CONTAMINATION FEARS: Mooball children's playground at Pottsville Rd. Below: Extracts from NSW Government files. Lesley Cargill

Radioactive playground at Mooball

A PLAYGROUND and child's bedroom were two locations identified as having high radiation levels at Mooball, but not remediated by the NSW Government, newly released historical records show.

The findings were revealed in NSW Department of Health records, accessed using Parliamentary privilege; and the same used by the Local Health District to quash investigations into a purported cancer cluster in the village.

Initial reports dated 1982 and 1983, showed 27 properties on Tweed Valley Way, Pottsville Rd, and a playground opposite the railway stop were "affected" by radiation.

The radiation was emitted by 'black sand' tailings used as soil fill by residents who accessed the materials at a mineral mining plant once located at the playground in the 1960s.

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Decades later Tweed Shire Council workers removed the toxic tailings as they carried Geiger counters on their hips to collect radiation data for the Government.

A final report, published in 1985, identified the children's playground as still measuring 100 microroentgens per hour (µR h), or 10 times the expected natural background level.

This was higher than the National Health and Medical Research Council's remedial action levels for homes, schools and playgrounds, of 70 (µR h) or more.

Despite this, the area was not remediated further, because it was deemed "a low occupancy region".

Furthermore, an area outside a child's bedroom at a home on Tweed Valley Way measuring 75 µR h, was not cleaned up.

The radiation health services officer in charge at the time decided it was too expensive to do so.

"The only area where readings were a little higher than desirable are in the home of ... and here the area is small ... and, in view of the concrete floor, removal of the material would not be cost effective," he concluded.

The revelations were found in documents released to Greens MLC Jan Barham, who is investigating community concerns over a possible cancer cluster in the village linked to soil contaminants.

Last week, she tabled 16 questions to Health Minster Jillian Skinner and 45 questions to Environment Minister Mark Speakman on the issue. Her questions included canvassing what scientific criteria were used by Local Health District chief executive Chris Crawford to rule out undertaking a formal investigation just prior to his retirement last December.

Ms Barham called on the NSW Government to clarify what levels of radiation were considered safe in the 80s, compared to today's accepted levels, specifically for children and adults.

"We now know that contaminant exposure to children poses a higher risk, that's why I've asked if we have those distinct, safe levels," Ms Barham told the Tweed Daily News.

"If the government doesn't take this opportunity to give adequate answers, I'll look at taking this further to get the information that's needed to address the local GP's concerns and to support residents."

Tweed GP Dr Paul Malouf first raised the alarm over "30-odd cases of cancer in 30-odd dwellings" with the Health Department back in 2013.

"Their initial response was deny, deny, deny," Dr Malouf said. "You scratch below the surface and look what you find. All we're asking is 'is there still a risk to the current residents and if there is, what should we do for our town'?"

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