The Captains Flat Preschool will remain closed until at least Monday of next week after elevated levels of lead from the former Lake George Mine were found in some areas of the school’s playground and other areas of the town.
Lead contamination has also been discovered in the park on Foxlow and Spring Streets in the north of the village and the roadside on Foxlow Street between the Captains Flat Hotel and the Captains Flat Fire Station.
Testing by the NSW Government last week detected high levels of lead on parts of the rail corridor alongside the mine which operated from 1892 until 1962, producing lead, zinc, copper, pyrite, silver and gold.
A statement from the Captains Flat Community Preschool this week confirmed the closure of the school due to lead contamination and that a heavy metal deep clean and a ‘no shoes inside’ policy would be implemented. The school is open from Monday to Wednesday.
“As part of the NSW Government’s testing program, our preschool was tested, and unfortunately, preliminary results revealed elevated levels of lead in some areas of our playground,” the statement said.
“We are currently working closely with NSW Government agencies to ensure everyone’s safety and to arrange for our preschool playground to be capped with topsoil and turf. We are exploring available options, including providing an indoor-only preschool program and will be up and running again as quickly as possible.”
There has been no lead detected at the town’s primary school.
A community notice mailed to residents of the town last week first notified residents of the issue.
Harriet Whyte, a spokesperson for the Department of Regional NSW, told Region Media the decision to test further public and private land in the town was made as “a proactive measure to ensure the health and safety of the community”.
She said if elevated lead levels are discovered on a property, the NSW EPA will help landowners and community members understand the measures that can be introduced to ensure safety, such as good handwashing practices or covering or capping soil to prevent dust.
“No environmental lead-related health issues have been identified in Captains Flat to date,” Ms Whyte said.
“Test results are indicative only at this stage, and testing is still being carried out on public land and private properties.”
Laboratory analysis will provide more conclusive results of the tests on public lands and the rail corridor, and these will be shared with the community in the coming weeks.
Once laboratory results are received, the NSW Government will determine whether any further testing or management action is required.
Free testing has also commenced on private land while the NSW Government has contacted landowners directly to share results for tests carried out on private land and will work with any impacted landowners to identify appropriate next steps.
“Results for tests carried out on private land will be shared with the owner and with other government agencies involved in managing the issue and Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council with the consent of the owner,” Ms Whyte said.
Concerned residents also attended two community information sessions on 8 and 9 February 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.
Almost 30 people attended each of the sessions.
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. Asbestos may have also been present at the Lake George Mine site when it was operational.