NSW Premier Mike Baird and Environment Minister Mark Speakman haveissued a slapdown to the Department of Defence over its handling of the Williamtown water contamination scandal, in an announcement about town water for up to 200 affected properties.
“This NSW Government action is filling a void that Defence has so far left. Defence is the polluter in this case and the polluter must ultimately pay,” Mr Speakman said a day after a Senate inquiry in Newcastle, where Defence was slammed for saying it was “too early for a formal acceptance of liability” for allowing pollutants to leave Williamtown RAAF Base into surrounding areas.
Mr Baird, Mr Speakman and Water Minister Niall Blair announced the government would fund the connection of up to 200 affected properties to town water, estimated to cost $4 million. Town water, rather than bore or tank water, wouldgive residents “confidence in the long-term integrity of their water supply”, Mr Blair said.
Hunter Water chief executive Jeremy Bath said Defence would be sent the bill.
The government would also purchase a newLiquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometerto speed up testing of soil, water, biota and milkto addresscommunity concerns.
It would also establish dedicated engagement officers to provide ongoingsupport to residents.
The NSW Government repeatedits call to Defence to expedite its efforts to help the community.
Mr Baird described the contamination scandal as “deeply concerning, and we recognise the enormous effect it has had” on people.
Salt Ash residentArthur Tupmansaid he had never understood why the area wasnot connected to town water, and the government announcement was welcomed.