DUST STORM: Residents in Wollongbar are fed up with the dust which is turning yards, houses and washing filthy and which they claim is a health hazard during the building of the new Avalon Estate.
DUST STORM: Residents in Wollongbar are fed up with the dust which is turning yards, houses and washing filthy and which they claim is a health hazard during the building of the new Avalon Estate. Genelle Doust

Dust 'ruining' homes at new housing estate

FOR the past 12 weeks residents in the Avalon Estate at Wollongbar claim they have been living in dust-choked air which has put dirt on their washing and houses and fouled their tank water.

Morgan Earthworks, which in 2016 won the Hinterland Business Excellence Awards and the Regional Business Excellence Award, is working on the next stage of the estate, but residents have had enough.

Resident Genelle Doust is part of a local group that is up in arms about the dust-laden atmosphere

She said the excess dust had caused great distress to residents who were in a never-ending cycle of cleaning outside and inside their homes.

In an email she sent to Mr Morgan on September 19, Mrs Doust said their machinery should not be working in dry and windy conditions.

"Quite frankly, the residents have had a gut-full,” she wrote.

"I have severe asthma at the moment and I'm sure a lot of other residents do also (and) people's homes are being ruined (and) plants are dying. Totally not acceptable.”

However Morgan Earthworks general manager, Paul Morgan, said his firm had been working hard to put into place dust mitigation strategies.

He said they had spent more than $30,000 on excess water charges to date.

"Equally, we have invested upward of $35,000 in sprinkler systems and hydro-mulching, incurred extra wages, overtime and watercart expenses of approximately $27,000 (and) these costs are over and above what would normally be required.”

Mr Morgan said unusually dry and hot conditions have exacerbated the situation.

He said the hydromulch, a sprayed mixture of grass seed, fertiliser, mulch and organic tacifier that acts as a dust suppressant and gives the best chance of grass coverage in dry conditions, has taken longer than usual to grow.

"Without the relief of rain this has created a challenging environment for all local construction developments,” he said.

"I sympathise with the concerns of the residents and do not deny the dust was at times impossible to completely eliminate and as a result problematic for everyone concerned, this includes our construction team and their endeavours to continually alleviate the issue.”

However, Ms Doust and her neighbours have sent a constant stream of email complainants to Mr Morgan and Ballina Shire Council, and they have even contacted Safe Work NSW.

Other residents with small children also expressed concerns about their kids playing outside with so much dust in the air.

Tiphanie Lloyd said she was distressed the dust had collected on her roof and, after the recent rains, tainted the water in the family's tank.

"It's exhausting living with all this dust everywhere,” she said.

"It seems like there's no end in sight.”

Mr Morgan said his company had at all times worked closely with the council by informing them of their strategies and current site conditions and all correspondence with local residents had been emailed to council officers.

"Once again we are sorry for the pain and aggravation this stage of development has incurred on the residents of the previous stage, and we hope those former weather conditions do not occur for the next lot of residents who choose to purchase in the stage currently under construction,” he said.

"We don't proclaim to have done everything perfectly and with the ability of hindsight we won't leave this project without use of the experience and lessons learnt in regard to our future dust mitigation strategies.”

A spokesperson for Ballina Shire Council said the recent extended dry period mixed with days of high winds made for very challenging conditions for civil contractors across Ballina Shire.

"Unfortunately eliminating dust from large subdivision works is not always possible during extreme weather events such as the hot and windy conditions we have experienced over the past few months,” the spokesman said.



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