Thursday, December 8, 2011

Contamination: of lives, and of regulatory and tax systems

Case study one, believed to be Leigh Street, was particularly concerning.
''Twenty-two residential properties surrounding the former quarry site are contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [by-products of fuel burning], benzo(a)pyrene [a carcinogen found in coal tar and exhaust fumes], lead and other metals due to the quarry infill material,'' the report found.
The report said that the ''Maribyrnong City Council and the EPA have demonstrated poor due diligence and a poor duty of care'' to the residents at the site.
The report outlined a tangled bureaucratic mess for dealing with contaminated sites.
''No one entity is accountable for oversight of the effectiveness of the regulatory framework in operation.
''Further, responsibility for managing the high-risk sites has been neither clearly defined nor accepted by any entity,'' Mr Pearson found.
He called for a ''systematic and co-ordinated review of the entire regulatory framework''.
The Environment Protection Authority said it accepted the report's recommendations in full.
Maribyrnong City Council chief executive Vince Haining said within the 32 square kilometres of the municipality there were 89 former quarry sites that contain residential and industrial waste.
He said council did not ''possess the financial means'' to immediately investigate and remediate potentially contaminated sites across the municipally.
He said the council was working closely with the EPA and environmental consultants to investigate and remediate sites mentioned in the Auditor-General's report.


I want to draw attention to four facts:
  •  that this pollution, contamination, call it what you will is from waste, by-products of a form of resource extraction and production.  
  • that the cost of cleaning up this site and the cost of healthcare for those affected by this contamination will be borne by the ratepayers of the Maribyrnong City Council and the taxpayers of Victoria through the Victorian Government.  
  • that there is unlikely to have been any realistic cost extracted by either the Maribyrnong City Council or the Victorian Government from the business using the site to cover such contingencies
  • that there was insufficient regulation and/or monitoring to prevent this and there is no direct indication that effective regulation and/or monitoring is already in place or will be put in place to prevent such an occurrence again.
People gain prestige when they rise to elected office at whatever level of government.  People who manage government instrumentalities are well-educated and, again, acquire prestige from their appointments.  The people who have lived in these properties either suffer from afflictions obtained through the contamination or live in fear of adverse health states further down the track.  

What I am pointing out is that some people are all glory and frequently abdicate their responsibilities.  Some people are casualties and some are tax fodder.  Our society has to come to the stage where adverse affects and costs are effectively recognised and accounted for in an up-front manner.  The burden is falling adversely on people who should not be paying the price while the damages, wasters, incurrers are getting away, it would appear, scot free.

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