MEMORIES of a rubbish tip at Tompkins Park, which closed in 1964, have prompted fears of long-buried contaminants being squeezed into the swan river by a planned wave park.
The park is currently classified as “possibly contaminated” by the state’s environment watchdog, but Melville council has a pending application to have its status downgraded.
Wave Park Group has also done its own investigations and reckons the tip was north-east of its proposal.
But the council is being strangely secretive about the landfill’s precise location, and it’s hard to decipher from old aerial photos, so members of a residents’ lobby group opposed to the facility are feeling dubious.
“If you go and stick a tonne of water per square metre on what is swampy land with poor foundation … there’s a tendency to put pressure on whatever toxins might be floating around in there and push them out,” says Mark McLerie from the Melville Ratepayers and Residents Association, which is working with the lobby group.
The Swan Estuary Reserves Action Group is also represented and says there were 22 tips along the Swan and Canning rivers.
“It is a matter of common regret that we used the river and wetlands in this way, especially since at that time regulations on what chemicals, pollutants and poisons could be ‘dumped’ were lax, and we now know much more about their long-term effects,” SERAG secretary Catherine O’Neill says.
“We would be concerned with any development that jeopardises the superb natural values of the Swan River estuary.”
But WPG CEO Andrew Ross pointed out that “possibly contaminated” didn’t confirm the presence of toxins, and said the company was still committed to doing things sustainably.
“As surfers, we have a deep connection with the natural environment and will continue to ensure this project is delivered in the most sustainable way possible”, Mr Ross said.
“Given the landfill activities are outside the project area, we do not expect that soil contamination will pose a risk to the environment”.
The Department of Environmental Regulation says metals and nutrients detected in groundwater could have come from fertilising and irrigating the playing fields, given the time since the tip’s closure.
“In DER’s experience, development on former landfills can be managed to avoid unacceptable risks to the environment (such as leaching of contaminants),” a DER spokesperson said.
Former federal politician George Gear says opposition is growing as locals cotton on to how much green space the wave park will gobble up.
“A lot of people think it’s just taking up where the bowling club is, but it extends almost all the way up to Clydesdale Street,” Mr Gear said.
“There’s going to be a three-metre high wall 80 metres along Canning Highway, so the views of the river will be severely affected.”
Mr Gear said others were upset two giant gum trees would be cut down.
Judith Armstrong lives on Coverley Street nearby and says she hadn’t been opposed to the park until realising she’d lose much of the grass where she walks her two pooches Riah and Lilyb.
by TRILOKESH CHANMUGAM