Members of the public have stumbled upon even more asbestos-contaminated sites in Liverpool, claims the United Services Union (USU), as it ramps up its bitter row with Liverpool City Council over the issue.
USU General Secretary Greame Kelly said he had been contacted by members of the public who had accidentally found contaminated sites in the Western Sydney local government area (LGA) that he claimed had not yet been officially identified or inspected.
“Ratepayers are letting us know daily,” Mr Kelly said. “It is dreadful to think that the local constituents of Liverpool Council are going to such lengths that they are putting in Government Information (Public Access) applications for the council’s asbestos report to find out whether their local area is affected.”
Mr Kelly said that two Liverpool City Council workers had already tested positive for asbestos-related lung problems and he claimed it was ‘highly suspicious’ that their illnesses corresponded with accusations about the council illegally dumping contaminated landfill.
Government News understands that up to fifteen sites have been identified across the LGA and are being investigated by the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
Mr Kelly said the council had spent 18 months dumping asbestos-contaminated soil, hauling it from its Western Depot in Kemps Creek and distributing it across the LGA, but had stayed silent about it. The Western Depot closed in November last year.
“These sites have been known by the council and our members have been out there unwittingly moving across the top of it,” he said. “There are children playing on sports fields, pensioners mowing grass verges.”
The scandal resulted in calls from seven of the 11 Liverpool councillors and the public for CEO Carl Wulff to fall on his sword, which he did during a closed session at an extraordinary council meeting last week.
Last night (Monday), the council formally accepted Mr Wulff’s resignation, despite Mayor Ned Mannoun’s previous denials that the CEO had resigned – now a subject of a complaint from another councillor.
Council minutes show that Mr Wulff had indeed resigned last week: “Council accept in principle the offer of separation of employment as suggested by the CEO in his draft deed dated 15 March 2016.”
But what’s less clear, is whether Mr Wulff jumped ship from an arguably dysfunctional council that already had a problem with asbestos contamination prior to his appointment in May 2014.
The Director of Economic Development Michael Cullen was appointed as interim CEO for up to a year, while the search begins for a permanent replacement for Mr Wulff.
Under the Local Government Act, Mr Wulff is like to receive a fairly hefty pay out, possibly more than $300,000.
For their part, Mr Wulff and Mr Mannoun have accused the USU of running a spiteful smear campaign to get back at Mr Wulff for awarding the contract to run the council’s customer service centre to Queensland outsourcing company Propel; a controversial deal which went live last July.
While Propel and the council said the new arrangement would speed up transactions and modernise the service centre, the Union complained the contract was negotiated in secret and that staff were being over-monitored and many had resigned.
Mr Wulff instigated a similar contract with Propel – which is majority-owned by the Local Government Association Queensland – about eight years ago, when he was CEO of Ipswich Council in Queensland.
Mr Kelly said: “We have been saying for quite some time that both Carl Wulff and (Mayor) Ned Mannoun should resign. The best thing for Propel to do would be to pick up their kit bag and go with Carl back to Ipswich. They can bugger off.”
The NSW Environmental Protection Authority said: “The EPA’s investigation into the illegal dumping of asbestos contaminated soil in Liverpool is continuing. We are not in a position to provide any further information about the investigation at this point in time.”
The Authority said the council had a duty of care to ensure contaminated sites were safe in the meantime.
A spokesperson for the Office of Local Government said it was “continuing to closely monitor the situation at the Council.”
Liverpool City Council was contacted for comment but did not respond.
Comment below to have your say on this story.
If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign up to the Government News newsletter