Asbestos found at N Weston pond site

Authorities have confirmed the presence of asbestos at the site of a 15ha pond planned for the new suburb of North Weston.

The ACT Planning and Land Authority says there is “negligible likelihood of any contaminants polluting the pond or the groundwater table. The ACT Government plans to landscape the pond and put playgrounds, picnic areas and cycleways around it”.

The pond is planned for land off the Cotter Road that was once used as the Weston Creek sewage treatment plant night soil disposal facility and as a “builders’ landfill area”.

A spokeswoman for the authority said an environmental site assessment last year established that “broken asbestos cement products were located in the filling of the sewage treatment plant”.

The products were left behind when the site was demolished, most structural material removed but the rest levelled out to become landfill.

“The sewage treatment plant site would be largely inundated by the pond development ,” t h e spokeswoman said.

“The site assessment found that there is negligible likelihood of any contaminants polluting the pond or the groundwater table. As such minimum excavation and remediation is required”.

The spokeswoman said any remediation or management of the soil impacted by the asbestos will be strictly controlled in accordance with the relevant regulations.

“The pond construction project includes a site clean-up to remove any remnant sewage treatment plant infrastructure encountered during pond construction”, she said.

The ACT Environment Protection Authority’s policy on contaminated sites says remediation is required when “an assessment indicates there is a significant risk of harm to human health or significant risk of material or serious environmental harm”.

Remediation includes preparing a long-term management plan; removing, destroying or containing the contamination; and reducing the hazard including restricting access if necessary.

The pond is planned to be able to store 280 megalitres of water as a key feature of the Molonglo housing development , which also encompasses the other planned suburbs of Coombs and Wright.

The pond will provide “storm water management and proposed irrigation of local parks and recreational areas”.

The development includes “landscaping public land with water promenades, picnics, playgrounds and cycle path connections”.

A spokesman for ACT Department of the Environment, Climate Change, Energy and Water said there were licensed sites both within and outside the ACT for the dumping of asbestos but until the quantity of any contaminated material to be removed from North Weston was determined, its ultimate destination could not be decided.

Construction of the pond is scheduled to start early in 2010.

By Megan Doherty, Canberra Times, 18 September 2009 (pg 4)

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