The health and safety of students and staff is always the Department's top priority.
For this reason, the Department of Education and Communities is pleased to release the Fig and Wattle Street Ultimo Remediation Action Plan Development Status Report by McLachlanLister Hill International. This report finalises investigations in to the level of contamination expected to be encountered on the Fig and Wattle Street site, and the options for reducing or eliminating the contamination risk to students and staff.
When contamination is encountered the Department needs to identify the safest way to avoid or minimise the risk to the health and wellbeing of students and staff if a school development is to proceed.
This decision is based on the individual characteristics of the site; the nature of the contamination, the proposed building development and the scientific and geotechnical feasibility of the possible decontamination options. With improvements in data capture, better analysis and a greater understanding of the impacts on people's health, the approach to the management and remediation of contaminated sites has changed.
As the key elements of a development vary significantly from site to site, the Department has adopted, over many years and based on expert advice, a variety of site decontamination methodologies. The decision is always made in the light of the best available advice from experts and with the health and safety of students and staff paramount. The Department's first preference is always to remove the contaminates completely.
In the case of the proposed new Ultimo/Pyrmont Public School on the Fig and Wattle Street site in Ultimo, the geotechnical and scientific advice considered the nature of the contaminates found in the soil, the variable groundwater flows and the likelihood of the presence of noxious gases.
As the proposed school development would see most of the Wattle and Fig Street site developed for buildings, the report indicates that significant venting for noxious gases would be required if the contaminates are capped only or even partially removed. Expert advice indicates that the venting of noxious gases would be required for the foreseeable future.
Expert consultants have advised the Department that venting would most likely take the form of vent stacks up the side or through the buildings. Given the heights of buildings around the site, these stacks would have to have special filters that would require replacing at regular intervals, likely to be weekly. If it was possible to not locate buildings directly over the residual contamination, venting would most likely need to occur in or around outdoor play areas, via stacks.
The expert consultants have further advised that, depending on the actual concentrations of gas-generating contaminates encountered, a mechanical extraction system may also be required.
As it is anticipated that venting would be required in close proximity to school buildings and/or outdoor play areas, the Department has advised the Minister for Education that the only way to feasibly guarantee the health and wellbeing of current and future generations of Ultimo and Pyrmont students and staff is to remove all contaminated soil and groundwater completely.
The Department has been advised by the experts who have prepared this report that the cost of removing and disposing of all contaminated soil and groundwater from the Wattle and Fig Street site could exceed $53 million. If this were the case, the full redevelopment cost of a new Ultimo/Pyrmont school on the Wattle and Fig Street sites could exceed $170 million.
When compared to the option of redeveloping the existing Ultimo/Pyrmont site, at a cost of up to $42 million, the Department has advised the Minister for Education not to proceed with the purchase of the Wattle and Fig Street sites from the City of Sydney.
Appendix E - Costing Estimates for Remediation Options :