Exemption sought from $3.7m waste fees

02 Feb 2018

Newcastle City Council has written to the NSW Minister for the Environment seeking an exemption of fees related to disposal of ageing roadway and other material during last year's East End renewal works.

Contractors undertaking the long overdue reconstruction of Watt Street and other work brought forward for the inaugural Newcastle 500, removed a total 27,400 tonnes of roadway and associated "spoil" during the three-month project.

CEO Jeremy Bath said the original plan was for that material to be recycled, but the discovery of contaminants meant it had to be treated as waste and disposed at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre.

Analysis showed the material contained low levels of coal tar - a binding agent historically used in road construction. Isolated pockets of excavated material also contained low levels of asbestos, likely from the brake lining of cars and coal wagons that once plied their trade down Watt Street.

Traces of asbestos were discovered beneath the old road surface and did not pose any threat to health before or during the renewal works.

"This type of waste attracts a waste fee of $136 per tonne, meaning Council has now received a bill for $3.67million," Mr Bath said.

"Given the nature of the renewal works and the NSW Government's strong support for them prior to the Newcastle 500, Council is asking that the full amount be waived."

"This is waste that Council is not allowed to recycle. It is also waste that Council had to remove from below the road surface.

"It's important to remember the scope of improvements that took place as a result of the East End renewal program.

"Watt Street is Newcastle's oldest street and, prior to its reconstruction, featured infrastructure more than 100 years old in places. It's now one of the CBD's smartest streets, with new footpaths, a wider roadway, new drains and smart poles along its length."

"It should also be noted that we've not only improved the street's amenity - contaminated land that has sat there unknown for more than 100 years has now been removed."

"Without these works, Supercars could not have run the Newcastle 500. One of the City's greatest sporting event achievements would literally not have occurred, not occur for at least the next nine years," Mr Bath said.

The disposal of contaminated material is regulated by the NSW Environment Protection Authority. It directed that all contaminated material had to be removed and disposed of lawfully rather than recycled.

However, waste fees can be waived by the EPA on a case-by-case basis. Newcastle City Council understands that the EPA has previously provided concessions to a local council in similar circumstances where it had waste that could not be recycled.

Mr Bath said Council had a strong case for an exemption, given the circumstances.

"We will do everything we can to prevent ratepayers wearing the cost," he said.

"By storing the contaminated waste at Summerhill Waste Management Centre, we are effectively being double-charged - first with the EPA levy and second because the waste material takes up landfill space we can no longer earn an income from."