O'Farrell Government knew about highway contamination
The NSW Labor Opposition today revealed the tender documents for the Pacific Highway at Herons Creek included a requirement to remove contaminated waste from the site – raising serious questions about why the O'Farrell Government failed to ensure it was removed before it was unearthed by road workers.
The job specific requirements for the Herons Creek to Stills Road tender specifically states:
"Geotechnical investigations undertaken by the Principal have identified one potentially contaminated site within the worksite. The site is an area of land where burial of materials from a former chemical spill occurred on the Pacific Highway (from Stn. 55900 to Stn. 56050). The contaminated material shall be removed and disposed of in accordance with the requirements of RTA G36."
(RTA Job Specific Requirements – Herons Creek to Stills Road, August 2010, p18)*
"Roads Minister Duncan Gay needs to explain how workers were exposed to contaminated material, requiring them to be hospitalised, given his government and the contractor knew it was there," Opposition Leader, John Robertson said today.
"It is now clear why it has taken the Minister more than two weeks to come clean about the incident and announce an investigation – he didn't want anyone to find out that the O'Farrell Government knew about the contaminated waste all along.
"Five workers have been hospitalised with another 13 exposed to potentially harmful chemicals, and the moment these workers were sent to hospital, the RMS and the Minister would have been notified about the incident.
"The tender documents for the Herons Creek to Stills Road section of the Pacific Highway made it clear where the waste was located and that it needed to be removed as part of the contract.
"These documents are online and publicly available.
"Why has Mr Gay been feigning ignorance about the discovery of the toxic waste when he is supposed to be overseeing its removal as part of the construction works and would've been briefed in detail on the history of the site two weeks ago when workers were sent to hospital?
"The fact that the Roads Minister has only now ordered an investigation, two weeks after the incident, raises a number of very serious questions about what he has been doing for the past fortnight.
"The O'Farrell Government knew this waste had to be removed as part of the construction phase – yet they failed to monitor the works to ensure it took place before the road workers unearthed it.
"Duncan Gay knows a whole lot more about this issue than he is letting on.
"The O'Farrell Government has been receiving weekly reports from the contractor regarding the progress of the road works for over a year. Why weren't they ensuring that all requirements and safety protocols were being followed?
"There was no need for road workers to be exposed to this material."
Tags: community, Duncan Gay, environment, health, John Robertson, pollution, Port Macquarie, roads