‘Elevated concentrations of methane’ in Sydney Park

The park is built on an area that served as a brick kiln and then Sydney’s main waste depot from 1948 to 1976, and was transferred to the City of Sydney’s control in 2004. The methane is the result of decomposing organic materials such as food and garden waste, the flyer said.

“Last week we were smelling something,” said Jenna Lane, operator of the Sydney Park kiosk, adding people in the area were worried the contamination could be linked to disturbance of the old landfill by nearby construction for the WestConnex road project.

The City of Sydney said the contamination issues preceded the project.

Cate Faehrmann, Greens MP and environment spokeswoman, said the lack of a media release or website posting by the EPA – despite seeking public submissions on what it should do – had “all the hallmarks of a cover-up by a government fearful of a backlash before the election”.

The EPA should state how long it has known about the contamination before its declaration, and also why it hadn’t issued a management order to clean up the popular site, she said.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said that “it was ludicrous to suggest the Minister schedules EPA announcements such as this”.

“The EPA is an independent regulatory authority and its declaration processes follow due process,” he said.

The EPA said the City of Sydney and Inner West Council had sent letters to residents in the vicinity of Sydney Park to coincide with the declaration last Thursday, and that information signs have been erected inside the park.

“Whilst low reported gas flow rates indicate a low risk or very low risk classification, there is the
potential for off-site migration of methane and carbon dioxide via preferential pathways due to the geology of the site,” the EPA’s declaration said.

A City of Sydney spokeswoman said the council “regularly monitors all buildings and confined spaces inside Sydney Park, and confined spaces adjacent to Sydney Park”.

“So far testing has shown that methane is not accumulating in these areas,” she said.

Fire and Rescue NSW had conducted testing of surrounding residential and business properties in November last year,  and all buildings were declared safe, the spokeswoman said, adding the city had sent letters to 4,000 addresses in the area informing residents of the contamination issue.

Peter Hannam writes on environment issues for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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