Owners locked out of an Erskineville development two years after it was completed would finally be allowed into their homes under an application before the City of Sydney that pledges toxic contamination is no longer a problem.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority has agreed with a site auditor that there are “no unacceptable risks from the contamination that remains at the property”.
The Sydney Morning Herald revealed last year that the council was refusing to allow residents to occupy the Sugarcube Apartments and Honeycomb Terraces despite construction finishing in April 2018.
The 127 homes had been built on the old Ashmore estate, where land was tainted by seven decades of heavy industrial use by a Metters factory, which manufactured kitchen appliances.
Council alleged the developer, Golden Rain Development, had “not complied with the development consent conditions concerning remediation of the site” before construction.
“The developer also proposed a number of environmental management plans that would make the City of Sydney and future residents responsible for ongoing monitoring of the site,” the council said in a statement.
The toxins of concern included heavy metals, hydrocarbons and asbestos.
Golden Rain has now lodged an application with the council to allow a staged occupation of the complex following years of negotiations that appear to have allayed the concerns of the City of Sydney and EPA.
Under the plans, residents would first be allowed into the Sugarcube Apartments, with occupation of the Honeycomb Terraces to follow at a later date.
“The proposed staging will provide a suitable pathway that enables the occupation of the site in an orderly fashion … without substantial further delay,” the application said.
A buyer who asked not to be named said he was looking forward to moving in but the delays had taken a heavy toll on purchasers, some of whom bought off the plan as far back as 2015.
“What sane person would consider [that] waiting five and a half years to settle on a unit is reasonable?” he said.
He said he felt the complex had been unfairly stigmatised by what he saw as shortcomings in how the contamination was addressed in the paperwork rather than genuine risk.
The City of Sydney approved the development on Metters Street in 2015, subject to strict conditions.
Those included an investigation into the contamination, development of a remediation action plan and a statement from a site auditor that the land had been cleaned up in line with the plan before construction could begin.
Any variation to the plan had to be approved in writing by the council and the site auditor.
The council has alleged a private certifier allowed construction to begin before the final site audit statement was issued and there were changes to the remediation action plan that were not approved by the council.
The remediation action plan was completed in 2015 and construction began the following year, according to council documents.
However, in late 2016, additional groundwater and vapour sampling showed up chlorinated volatile organic compounds exceeding safe guidelines.
The investigations uncovered a “plume of chlorinated solvents migrating from the Honeycomb Terraces to the southwest corner of the site”.
An expert report warned that left unchecked, hazardous vapours from the plume could enter buildings and expose residents to an “unacceptable” health risk.
It was decided a vapour barrier would be placed under the building footprint of the Honeycomb Terraces and environmental management plans should be drawn up to manage the risks long term.
The amended strategy was sent to the site auditor in February 2017 after construction had commenced.
The auditor recommended approvals be sought from the City of Sydney, the contamination be reported to the EPA and more details of the vapour barrier be provided.
The barrier was installed by mid-2018, but as of August last year the council still had unresolved concerns.
It asked Golden Rain to investigate environmental insurance “to cover any future rehabilitation costs”, to make changes to its environmental management plans and provide a clear strategy for the maintenance of the vapour barrier system.
The EPA called for more information about risks of contamination migrating off site but was ultimately satisfied the risks were negligible.
By the end of last year, concerns of all parties had been addressed.
In March, council wrote to Golden Rain offering in-principle support for the staged occupation of the site “provided they meet a series of conditions to protect future residents and visitors”.
A spokesperson for Golden Rain Development said there had been “extensive testing of the site” and the EPA agreed there were no unacceptable risks if environmental management plans were in place.
“As a result, no remediation work is necessary,” he said.
Source: Carrie Fellner The Age