Lead soil disposal for Lake Macquarie residents

To assist residents of North Lake Macquarie to address contamination on their properties residents can now dispose of their soil with lead in it at any landfill that accepts general household waste.

Residents living in the Lead Abatement Strategy (LAS) Area are eligible. The area covers the part of North Lake Macquarie considered to be potentially contaminated by lead from the former Pasminco smelter at Boolaroo. 

This follows a reclassification of the material with lead in it after testing in 2019 by the NSW EPA, assisted by Lake Macquarie City Council.

Laboratory analysis of 48 samples across 60 sites with elevated metal readings found that while lead contamination was elevated, the leachability of lead was very low, enabling the soil to be reclassified from restricted waste to general household waste.

This provides closer-to-home disposal options for residents if they are removing soil while doing major renovations or works at home or who and are required by council or Planning to remediate the soil on their site.

To assist residents with the cost of disposal for the lead impacted soil, the EPA will waive the NSW Government Waste Levy which is currently $143 per tonne. Normal waste facility charges (gate fees) will still apply.

More information is available in the EPA Fact Sheet (PDF 319KB) 

Residents can get more information by contacting the EPA Environment Line on 131 555 or calling Newcastle City Council on 4974 2000.

What about Pasminco Black Slag?

Operation of the Pasminco smelter resulted in a by-product called black slag which also contained residual lead.

Black slag is a black sand-like substance that has good drainage and packing properties. Although it has high levels of lead, in the 1960s it was deemed safe for landscaping works.

From 1960 to 1995, up to 2 million tonnes of slag was used throughout Lake Macquarie and surrounds, mostly on Council parks and reserves for fill and landscaping. A relatively small amount was used on residential land.

Managing Pasminco black slag

Due to high lead levels in the Pasminco black slag, this material is not suitable for disposal as general solid waste and is not covered by the immobilisation approval. It cannot be landfilled without further assessment.

Some waste companies can receive Pasminco black slag for treatment and disposal. Anyone wishing to dispose of black slag should contact the EPA on 131 555 for more information.

Financial assistance

Lake Macquarie City Council provides grant funds for residents who want to rectify land that has been impacted by the Pasminco smelter. This includes the disposal of contaminated soil.

Grants are provided to residents in the LAS area on a priority basis, and more information is available by contacting Council directly.

Map

The below map shows the affected properties.

Map of the Pasminco affected area

Frequently asked questions

1. What is the Lead Abatement Strategy (LAS) Area?

The Lead Abatement Strategy (LAS) Area is the part of North Lake Macquarie considered to be potentially contaminated by lead from the former Pasminco smelter at Boolaroo. To assist residents to address contamination on individual properties, the NSW EPA has facilitated a method of safe disposal of lead affected soil to reduce costs to residents.

2. Is my property included in the LAS Area?

The eligible properties are shown on the map above.

3. Why has this re-testing been done now?

The use of the Summerhill Waste Treatment Facility was always an interim measure while additional testing and options for disposal and containment were being investigated.

The reclassification of this soil with lead in it as general household waste is good news for the community and the environment as it opens up more disposal options.

4. Does this mean that the soil with lead in it poses no risk to the environment or human health- in which case why do I have to remove it from my property at all?

Laboratory testing of 48 samples across 60 sites showed that the level of lead in the soil was well below the levels for disposal and that it has negligible leachability.

The lead in the soil effectively immobilised and does not impact the surrounding environment. You will only be required by council to remediate soils at your property if you are undertaking a redevelopment at the site which disturbs the soil.

While this new approach makes disposal options easier, the soil should still be treated with caution on residential properties.

5. What does the levy exemption cover? Will there be other costs to me?

The levy exemption is only one component of the cost associated with cleaning up this legacy of soil contamination. Residents and landowners should factor in the other costs such as general waste disposal fees (non-levy), and removal including excavation and transport if needed.

6. Will the levy exemption cover other waste from my property?

No. The LAS levy exemption has been created to assist residents in removing legacy lead in soil from their properties. The exemption does not apply to any other type of waste such as black slag or waste generated by building or renovation works. Residents should take care to make sure that lead contaminated soil is segregated from other waste streams in those situations where soil removal forms part of other works.

7. How much contaminated soil can I remove?

There is no limit to the quantity of contaminated soil which can be removed from each property. The quantity will vary depending on the size of the property, the amount of garden or green space to be remediated and the type of redevelopment of the property. The immobilisation approval and levy exemption only applies to contaminated soil and not to any other type of waste, including black slag, non-impacted soil or construction waste. Each landowner is asked to be responsible in terms of how much waste they remove under this system.

8. Can I remove the soil myself, or do I need to use a contractor?

Residents do not need to use the services of a contractor to be able to receive the benefit of the immobilisation approval and levy exemption. Dust should be minimised (including wetting down if necessary) when excavating and transporting any lead contaminated soil. Each resident should consider any risk and benefits according to their individual circumstances. Residents should also consider potential health impacts of removing lead contaminated soil. Further information about lead safety can be found on the EPA’s website.

SafeWork NSW also has requirements for workers dealing with lead. Further information can be found on SafeWork’s website.

9. Can I take the contaminated soil to any landfill for disposal?

Yes, as long as the landfill holds an EPA licence to accept general solid waste.

10. How do I transport the soil to a Waste Management Centre?

All waste, including soil with lead in it, must be transported in a way that prevents dust being generated (i.e. securely covered, and wetted down if necessary, to prevent the soil from escaping during transport or storage). 

11. Can my soil be recycled?

No. Because of the type and nature of the soil contamination, it is not considered to be suitable for any type of reprocessing, recycling or re-use.

12. I am included in the study area, but have a commercial or industrial business. Am I entitled to the levy exemption?

The LAS levy exemption only applies to residential properties within the study area.

13. Am I entitled to use the immobilisation approval and levy exemption?

No, the LAS levy exemption only applies to residential properties within the study area.

14. Where can I get more information?

Additional information can be obtained by calling Environment Line on 131555 or Lake Macquarie City Council on (02 4921 0333). You can also put any concerns or questions in writing via email to waste.operations@epa.nsw.gov.au

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