1970’s – 1990’s. Lucas Heights. Pesticide dump

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Poisonous Waste Lies Forgotten

Sydney Morning Herald Sunday May 31, 1992 By DANIELLE COOK

Some of the most toxic substances known have been dumped at Lucas Heights in the past 20 years and virtually ignored.

Lying in the ground with little to stop the chemicals leaching into groundwater supplies and eventually the Georges River system are herbicides and PCBs heavily contaminated with dioxins, courtesy of Union Carbide Australia Ltd.

More than 230 tonnes of highly toxic PCBs and herbicides from this company’s operations found their way to the old IWC liquid waste depot at Lucas Heights in one year during the early 1970s.

Ironically, when the company cleaned up its old factory site at Rhodes in 1986, the State Government insisted that similar waste products could not be dumped in Australia but had to be shipped overseas.

Union Carbide was not the only company dumping hazardous waste: many companies and government bodies dumped domestic, commercial and industrial waste at Lucas Heights. This included solid industrial waste of unknown composition and untreated faecal waste dumped by Sutherland Shire Council.

Despite knowing of highly toxic chemicals at Lucas Heights since 1985, the State Government has ignored the potential dangers, according to a report for Sutherland Shire Council by a Sydney barrister, Mr Tim Robertson.

The report has been submitted to the commission of inquiry investigating the State Government’s plans to expand the Lucas Heights landfill site.

Although complaints about pollution in nearby Mill Creek were aired publicly in 1970 and leaching of wastes into drains and the creek was observed by the Government in 1975, the report says that no regulatory action was taken until 1980, when the IWC liquid waste depot was ordered to take no more waste

Five years later, the State Pollution Control Commission (SPCC) became highly critical of “the vast quantities of free liquid” on the IWC site. Cleanaway – which succeeded IWC as operator of the depot – offered to install a leachate collection system but did not study groundwater movements.