Labor push for inquiry into Williamtown water contamination

In Parliament | 01.07.16

Labor will move to establish an Upper House inquiry into the groundwater contamination at Williamtown and the inadequacy of the Baird/Grant Government’s handling of the crisis when the NSW Parliament resumes in August.

The inquiry will focus on the roles New South Wales government agencies have played in the discovery of the contamination and in the adequacy of the response. 

A growing list of concerns have come to light since residents were told abruptly to avoid drinking bore water and eating locally produced food in September 2015, including:

  • The significant delay of New South Wales government agencies, particularly the NSW Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA), in informing the local community of the contamination;

  • The lack of interagency communication between the NSW EPA, NSW Health, NSW Department of Primary Industries and Hunter Water;

  • The need to take action based on the lessons learnt from the findings of the Taylor review, which identified significant delay and inaction on the part of the NSW EPA;

  • Numerous reported failures of communication between the Government and the communities of Williamtown, Salt Ash and Fullerton Cove;

  • The health impacts of firefighting foams on Rural Fire Service and NSW Fire & Rescue workers;

  • The apparent failure of the NSW EPA to effectively regulate Department of Defence facilities and the role of the NSW EPA in identifying other contaminated sites across New South Wales; and

  • The role of NSW Health in adopting safe drinking water guidelines up to 78 times higher than comparable guidelines in other jurisdictions around the world.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe MLC

“This has been an unmitigated disaster for the people who live in and around Williamtown. 

“The impact has been far-reaching and devastating – for families and their homes and property, for businesses and the local economy, and for the region’s natural environment. 

“We need to understand the role of the Baird/Grant Government in this crisis and why it didn’t act sooner to inform the community and immediately begin an operation to clean up the contamination.” 

Quotes attributable to Member for Port Stephens Kate Washington MP

“Through no fault of their own residents in Williamtown, Salt Ash and Fullerton Cove are suffering.

“The NSW Government’s response was unacceptably delayed, and since then has been inadequate, to the point that the community has little faith in the decisions being made. 

“We deserve to know why our own government authorities were seemingly unable to identify and adequately respond to such serious and ongoing contamination, and we must ensure this never happens again.”