Contamination at Callan Park

Contamination studies in 2000 and 2002 concluded that Callan Park is relatively a highly contaminated site. This was the main reason why the 2002 master plan ruled out townhouse development – the government did not want to run the risk of people growing vegetables or children ingesting dirt in gardens or courtyards.

The Land Use Plan 2007 has not commissioned a new contamination study or even updated the existing ones. It has instead commissioned Bill Ryall to review the 2000 and 2002 studies (carried out by Coffey Geosciences); this review also reviews the 2002 review of these previous two studies.

As those earlier studies only tested the then proposed development areas (along Glover/Church streets, Broughton Hall and along Balmain Road) and the foreshore areas (principally the ovals), this means that none of the currently proposed university development zone in the centre of the site has been tested.

Bill Ryall who compiled this latest review was not aware of that shortcoming in the contamination studies because he had not been told what areas were to be proposed for the university development. His report is dated 25 October 2007 and the university’s proposed development areas were not revealed till the following weekend.

While Ryall concludes that the inadequacies of the past contamination investigations – and they are significant in his view – could be made good later at the development stage, he was not aware of just how inadequate the earlier investigations were as far as the current proposal is concerned.

Ryall is convinced that the 2000 and 2002 studies – even for the areas they investigated – fall short of what is required for an acceptable master plan. After detailing the limited scope of the contamination investigations, he concludes:”it is considered that many of these matters should have been addressed by the appropriate level of investigation at the master planning stage to demonstrate the overall environmental condition across the site”. (page 11)

In fact, the 2002 review also called for “a more detailed site contamination assessment” and Ryall echoes this: “it is clear that the preliminary investigations undertaken by Coffey were not of adequate scope to have identified all contamination that may be present at the site.” (p19)

He concludes

Groundwater contamination and asbestos contamination have not been properly examined

“It is considered that the sample collection methods employed for the assessment were not appropriate to allow the detection of asbestos at depth in heterogeneous fill materials.” (page 10)

On past experience this has cost implications for any future new development:

“The removal of asbestos from filling during the development of these hospital sites and other former industrial sites has presented major environmental and commercial issues during development of these sites.” (p7)

Too few locations were sampled

“… comparison of the number of sampling locations adopted by Coffrey with the minimum number stated by the NSW EPA guidelines indicates that the number of sampling locations adopted to date is not capable of yielding adequate information on the nature and extent of contamination for the previous master plan.” (p9)

And this would be doubly true for the current Land Use plan because there has been no testing of areas proposed for university’s 15 or 16 new buildings.

Samples were too small

“It is considered that the number of samples analysed from the four Development areas was inadequate to allow even a preliminary understanding of the presence of contamination in these areas and was incapable of indicating the likely lateral or vertical distribution of contamination” (page100)

Samples were inadequately analysed

“It is considered that the samples analysed were not adequate to identify potential constraints or risks that may be associated with contamination on the development areas.” (page 12)

“To characterise the environmental condition of fill materials requires that samples of each fill type identified in the bore be tested for the chemicals of potential concern. For example, the log for bore BH9 in the Broughton Hall Precinct identified six fill types to be present, but only tow of the fill types were tested. The log also noted that the presence of asbestos containing materials was tested for only in one near surface sample (0 to 0.5m) so it is unknown whether asbestos is present within the bulk of the fill material.’ (p12)

“It is noted that a second NATA registered laboratory was not employed to analyse split duplicate samples and that this was not in accordance with requirements of NSW EPA (1997). Consequently it is not possible to independently verify the accuracy and precision of all of the results reported by the ALS. However a lower level of reliability is acceptable for the purposes of the preliminary investigation.” (p12)

Ryall’s critique of the past studies makes it clear they were inadequate for the requirements of a master plan which is required under SEPP 56 to at least outline remediation proposals which are presumably to be based on an acceptable study of contamination.

If the contamination studies are not good enough for a master plan, why should we accept less for this current Land Use Plan?

Hall Greenland


Friends of Callan Park

January 2008