High levels of lead from disused mine detected at Captains Flat

Michael Weaver 4 February 2021 21
Lake George Mine at Captains Flat

Part of the former Lake George Mine at Captains Flat where lead contamination has been detected. Photo: NSW Government.

High levels of lead from the former Lake George Mine have been detected at Captains Flat following initial testing by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) this week.

EPA inspectors will continue testing during the next few weeks in public and community spaces to check for lead contamination from the mine which operated from 1892 until 1962, producing lead, zinc, copper, pyrite, silver and gold.

In a community notice mailed to residents of the town this week, the NSW EPA said elevated levels of lead were present on the former Lake George Mine site and were also identified in the rail corridor.

“The elevated levels of lead found in the rail corridor are likely to have come from the transport of ore extracted from the former Lake George Mine into rail trucks,” the notice said.

The NSW EPA said extensive rehabilitation works have been carried out since the mine closed to manage erosion, improve safety and control tailings pollution from the site.

There have also been ongoing issues from the seepage of acid mine drainage and heavy metal contaminants spreading from the site. Zinc is the primary contaminant of concern.

A cross-section of part of the mine at Captains Flat.

The Lake George Mine operated from 1892 until 1962, producing lead, zinc, copper, pyrite, silver and gold. Photo: Supplied.

The letter to Captains Flat residents noted that standards for environmental protection like dust management were very different when mining operations commenced there around 120 years ago.

“Highly mineralised soil and dust would have been spread around the mine site during its operation and at the loading site in the rail corridor. Waste was also stockpiled on the mine site and it is not known how far soil and dust from the mine site and rail corridor may have spread,” the letter said.

Captains Flat resident Claire Hooker and her husband Mark have been residents at Captains Flat for 10 years. Claire homeschools her nine children while producing a weekly blog called This Tribe Of Mine.

Claire told Region Media the contamination could be dangerous for the town, but this was the first she had heard about it.

Claire Hooker and her husband Mark and their nine children

Claire Hooker and her husband Mark and their nine children live at Captains Flat. Photo: Jodi Bingley Photography.

“We received the letter saying there’s not necessarily lead contamination in the community; however, they’re just testing things at the moment and saying you can have your home tested,” Claire said.

“There’s obviously no point in worrying about things at this point, but lead contamination can be quite a dangerous thing from what I’ve already heard if it were to be found in the drinking water.

“That could potentially be bad for the whole town and for us too, as there’s 11 of us here.

“If it’s found there’s lead in other parts of the town, that’s something we’d be very concerned about.”

Claire said the Captains Flat community is very supportive and would be keen to find out the extent of potential contamination of lead.

“This is the first I’ve heard about the issue since we moved here, but at least there is testing now, so there’s no point worrying at the moment,” she said.

The NSW EPA will test soil from publicly owned land in Captains Flat, including the school, community hall and parks and is also available to test privately owned properties.

“If the results show elevated levels, the NSW Government will work with the community to ensure they know what actions they can take to live safely with lead,” the letter said.

READ ALSO: Lead paint dust found in fourth public school in the ACT

Similar issues have also been found in Broken Hill where potential exposure to lead is managed by regular handwashing, using raised garden beds and covering exposed dirt with turf or mulch to prevent dust being carried by the wind.

Community information sessions will be held at the Captains Flat Community Hall next Monday and Tuesday (8 and 9 February) between 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Residents will be able to speak with representatives from the NSW EPA, NSW Health, Transport for NSW, Department of Regional NSW, Crown Lands, Local Land Services and the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.

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21 Responses to High levels of lead from disused mine detected at Captains Flat
Ol L Ol L 2:24 pm 08 Feb 21

Back in the 1990s CIT science courses used to sample here as it was the best place to see contaminant leaching in real life

IrishPete IrishPete 1:50 pm 08 Feb 21

Residents know it’s a former mining town. But the mine is not the town, and many residents will have reasonably assumed that the residential part of the town was fairly uncontaminated, and that contamination was confined to the mine site and the tailings dumps and the river downstream of the mine site and tailings dumps.

Nor is everyone expert on the effects of lead on child development. Clearly the NSW Government had no qualms about running a primary school in Captains Flat.

The NSW Government has spent squillions trying to minimise the effect of the pollution on the local environment and the Molonglo River and downstream tributaries. Because the mining company closed up, sold off its assets and walked away.

Martin Monaghan Martin Monaghan 2:24 am 07 Feb 21

Shane Cumberland

Heavs Heavs 4:26 pm 05 Feb 21

Nice photo. Looks like they still struggle to get TV reception out in Captains Flat though.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:23 pm 07 Feb 21

    Ripper comment!

    IrishPete IrishPete 1:51 pm 08 Feb 21

    Why do some people feel the need to be rude on the internet about complete strangers.

James-T-Kirk James-T-Kirk 1:01 pm 05 Feb 21

I can not believe how short a memory society has.

I ran a scout camp there in 1998 (ish) and the colour of the runoff in the waterways said “MINING” The tailings were everywhere, and we walked along the railway track talking about what it used to be used for.

Captains Flat was a mining town. Simple as that —– Don’t swim in the waterways.

The local who took us on a tour also mentioned high levels of Cyanide from the gold mining.

Maybe the real estate agent wouldn’t show you what the place was – but a cursory glance at any historical record site will.

Exactly the same issue is about to be found from the Naval transmitter station here in Belconnen. Its a suburb now – called Lawson… Government decided that they wanted to put a suburb there, attracts a heap of rates, and land tax, and stamp duty on house sales. Mark my words well. They used to dispose of high voltage transformer oil in pits in the ground – that oil was laden with carcinogenic PCBs. We will see the community uproar in 10 or 20 years as the numpties who brought land there complain that they didn’t know.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 2:20 pm 05 Feb 21

    Conveyancing lawyers will be checking their professional liability insurance right now.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:07 pm 04 Feb 21

It couldn’t have been the ACT EPA doing the investigation. They still can’t find any offensive odours at the MLRMC after 10 years of thousands of complaints.

Deirdre Russack Deirdre Russack 2:08 pm 04 Feb 21

Find it hard to believe that one could live in Captains Flat and not be aware of the contamination risk from the mining that took place there.

    Alex Warne Alex Warne 2:12 pm 04 Feb 21

    Deirdre Russack as a previous resident of CF I can assure you that they all know about the lead issue.

    Claire Louise Hooker Claire Louise Hooker 3:30 pm 04 Feb 21

    Alex Warne As I stated, it was the first I've heard of it but can't speak for anyone else.

    Alex Warne Alex Warne 3:40 pm 04 Feb 21

    Wow, you've been there a long time too. It's been an issue for a very very long time

    Claire Louise Hooker Claire Louise Hooker 3:41 pm 04 Feb 21

    Alex Warne I've been here almost 10 years but we keep ourselves to ourselves

Duncan Whiterod Duncan Whiterod 12:46 pm 04 Feb 21

Well d'uh. Always has been.

Daniel O'Connell Daniel O'Connell 11:58 am 04 Feb 21

Great family photo

Ray Green Ray Green 11:22 am 04 Feb 21

You have got

To be joking right, lead in an old lead mine. I really hope they don’t get paid to make these findings. 😵

    Lesley Siffleet Lesley Siffleet 2:07 pm 05 Feb 21

    Yes those of us that grew up there were ALWAYS aware of this and I stayed for nearly 30 years...you have to have blinders on and fingers in your ear NOT to realise these are the after affects of an old working mine...there was always proof if you just walked over the hills and along the river...we as children ran those hills and swam in that same river. Even then the colour alone alerts you to the fact that there is some sort of mineral residue exposed all around.😏🤨

Claire Louise Hooker Claire Louise Hooker 10:30 am 04 Feb 21

Hopefully we will know more soon.

Paul South Paul South 10:26 am 04 Feb 21

Nothing new . Wasn't the mine a silver /gold /lead mine

    Tim South Tim South 10:37 am 04 Feb 21

    Paul South I found extremely high levels of led in my car battery it’s a wonder that the EPA hasn’t invested that

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