25 June 2008

Australia Radioactive house 'unfit to live in'

Source: ABC
The house is being labelled 'a radioactive waste dump'.

The New South Wales Government is under pressure to compensate and apologise to residents living on radioactive land in Sydney's north.

A Sydney couple bought the waterfront property at Hunters Hill from the Health Department seven years ago.

Uranium processing was carried out on the site a century ago, and independent testing shows some soil samples are 350 times more radioactive than what is considered safe.

The Government has carried out its own tests in the past and has repeatedly said the site is not dangerous.

But the property's owners are using the new results to press the Government to buyback the property and pay compensation.

The lawyer representing the owners, Nicholas Brunton, says the Government can expect an approach today.

"The Government's declined to even do any more further testing of the site, they believe it's within safe levels," he said.

"We want to show them the report, we'll be doing that today, and then we want to sit down and negotiate an acceptable outcome in a fair and equitable manner."

Mr Brunton says the results show the site is totally unfit for human habitation.

"It was a much more comprehensive survey," he said.

"The Government only took a brief one-day screening survey, which they admit is not a comprehensive risk assessment.

"Soil samples indicate radiation above normal background levels of up to 350 to 400 times, so the results are far more significant."

'Appalling injustice'

A woman whose parents both died of cancer while living near the old uranium smelter says it is time the Health Department ended the cover-up.

Katie McGrath, who lived near the property in Hunter's Hill in the 1970s, says she is not surprised independent testing has uncovered dangerous levels of radiation.

Ms McGrath says the truth has been withheld from residents.

"We'll never get our childhood back or the lives that we might have lived, but we do owe it to our parents to bring to light the appalling injustice that has occurred here," she said.

"It's time this cover-up was ended and we received a formal apology from the Department of Health, and it's also time they raised the issue of compensation to all the residents affected."
Radioactive 'hotspots'

The Health Department bought two other radioactive blocks on the same street in the late 1970s.

Local Liberal MP Michael Richardson says it should also buyback the couple's property.

"Number 11 is really where the hotspots were," he said.

"They reckon in the 1980s they took radioactive material from number 11 and dumped it on numbers seven and nine, but clearly they didn't get it all or anything like it all.

"We always suspected that number 11 would be highly radioactive and these tests have actually borne that out."

An Upper House inquiry into the risks for residents starts next week.

The ABC has been told no-one from the Health Department is available to comment on the issue.