The NSW Labor Opposition today demanded answers from the NSW Government, after testing of Maitland’s Stony Creek and Swamp Creek showed chemical concentrations of PFAS up to 22 times the recommended drinking water guidelines.

While the Truegrain waste oil processing facility at Rutherford had its environment protection licence suspended by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in 2016, it now appears that no testing was carried out by the Government of the site or in nearby waterways until a spill from the site occurred earlier this year.

Questions have been asked if the EPA was aware of the contaminant being on-site and whether adequate measures had been put in place to stop a spill such as this occurring.

PFAS is the same chemical found to be contaminating waterways around the Williamtown RAAF Base, a scandal which is well known due to the abject response from the Government in communicating with residents anxious about the health implications of the contamination.

Residents near the Rutherford site have now been told to avoid using water from Stony Creek and Swamp Creek waterways, downstream of the Rutherford Industrial Estate, for domestic or livestock use. However, it has taken two months to notify local residents after testing was carried out in March.

In 2016, Member for Maitland Jenny Aitchison wrote to then-Environment Minister Mark Speakman calling on the Government to put the health of the community first and suspend the site’s licence after numerous breaches.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe

“It beggars belief that the Government appears to have failed to adequately investigate the site at Rutherford, even after its environment protection licence was suspended and while the Williamtown scandal was at the top of everyone’s minds.

“The Environment Minister claims to have now “stepped in” – in fact what we are seeing is a government rapidly trying to cover up its failure to use its investigative powers to protect the community.

“Is this going to be another Williamtown?”

Quotes attributable to Member for Maitland Jenny Aitchison

“I am deeply concerned for local residents who have every right to expect full and immediate notification of any sort of chemical contamination such as this, and there are now serious questions to be answered by the Government.

“Firstly, what testing did they undertake in 2016 after suspending the environment protection licence? And now, why did it take two months to notify residents of the recent testing results, and is the Government going door-by-door to properly explain the situation to locals?

“I have heard from people who have tried to find out what is happening and they say the so-called hotline is useless. The Government needs to provide the community with everything it knows, and do it now.”

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