Boolaroo lead test backdown

PASMINCO administrator Ferrier Hodgson has backed down after initially refusing a Boolaroo couple access to a free lead abatement scheme due to lost paperwork.

Hundreds of people from Boolaroo, Argenton and Speers Point are having topsoil removed from their yards due to contamination from the former Pasminco lead and zinc smelter at Cockle Creek.

Ferrier Hodgson is spending about $60 million on soil decontamination and remediation in the Lake Macquarie suburbs, with plans to bury about two tonnes of soil in a sealed container.

However, the company refused to abate one Boolaroo couple's soil, despite them signing up for the offer almost 18 months ago.

Trent and Sarah Webber registered for the lead abatement scheme in April 2011, not long after purchasing their home in October 2010.

The couple are expecting their first child in December and were hoping to have the abatement work finished before the baby's birth.

Mr Webber rang Ferrier Hodgson to find out when his property was scheduled to be tested for contamination soon after his neighbour's yard was dug up and had its soil replaced.

"They [Ferrier Hodgson] told us they were missing some paperwork from us and were not obliged to carry out the test," Mr Webber said.

"The problem is, we thought everything was alright from our end. Apparently they sent some more paperwork back asking us to fill out more forms, but we never got them.

"At the very least they could have sent out another letter or door-knocked to see if we still wanted to go through with it."

After The Star contacted Ferrier Hodgson, the company reconsidered its position and agreed to test the soil and remove any contamination if necessary.

Ferrier Hodgson deed administrator Peter McCluskey said the company would test the soil at the couple's home, even though the abatement strategy was in its final stages.

Mr McCluskey said about 1180 homes in Lake Macquarie had been sampled for lead to date.

"We've had a pretty good response so far. Most of the properties have returned low levels of lead," he said.

"You have the odd difference of opinion with some people [about the process] but that's about it."

TOPSOIL TEST: Boolaroo resident Trent Webber outside his house. Picture: Mark Connors

TOPSOIL TEST: Boolaroo resident Trent Webber outside his house. Picture: Mark Connors


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