Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Life in Wollongong is going down the mine.

Just south from Yallah (a southern suburb of Greater Wollongong), is a new sub-division on reclaimed land. In other words, it is a once-good swamp now being turned into a housing estate.
The thing about this place is, it is being built entirely on fill which is "coal wash". The "coal wash" comes from the mines, of course, and then, before the coal is used, or exported, it is sieved, washed and the usable coal goes to the mills, and the "coal wash" gets dumped. Then developers come along, and propose to use it for land fill, and build houses there, and people are so keen to get their own houses that they will buy anything.
This is the view along the street at the edge of Haywards Bay (a brand new housing estate).
This practice has been subject to Question in Parliament, but are the questions asked, the really important questions? For example, they ask about petro-chemical residues in coal wash. That was denied. But I would have asked about sulphur levels, and heavy metal contaminants?
  • 0307: Mr Jones to the Minister for Natural Resources:
  • (24) Throughout the Wollongong regions there are a number of instances where residential development has occurred on filled lands. In all instances the Local Government Authorities have provided stringent guidelines on the nature of the fill to be used and how it should be emplaced. Geotechnical surveys in accordance with engineering requirement are usually a necessary component before such developments are approved.
  • (25) Any proposal to fill and develop residential buildings will require approval from Local Government Authorities based upon detailed geotechnical and engineering studies. All water which flows onto and away from the filled lands would require special consideration, incorporating detailed hydrologic and hydraulic assessment.
  • Question asked on 26 March 92 (session 50-2) and printed in Questions & Answers Paper No. 13. Answer to be printed in Questions & Answers Paper No. 20.
  • Source: Hansard and Papers, Legislative Council, Questions: 0307, Parliament of New South Wales.
Is this the view you would expect from Shoreline Avenue, Hayward's Bay?
I was shocked by what I saw, but clearly other people do not see things the way that I do. On Sunday morning, there were many people looking at the display houses in this area. Clearly the developers level the coal wash out, and top-fill it (with soil). But when excavations were being done for footings, the builders went down to the black coal wash, just about 300 mm down (approx. 18 inches). What happens if you plant a tree? Will it be able to grow in this stuff? And what about the long-term health effects for people living on this land fill?

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