Urunga Wetlands Rehabilitation

Key achievements of the Urunga Wetlands project

  • A once degraded area has been transformed into a beautiful parkland for the community to enjoy.
  • The rehabilitation of the site includes a 150 metre boardwalk loop, allowing people to walk over the wetlands, and a 450 metre walking track surrounding the park.
  • Decking was constructed using recycled plastic waste and is equivalent to nearly 2.5 million plastic bags being diverted from landfill.
  • The project has boosted the local economy, employing 150 people and using the services of around 250 local businesses.
  • The site and wetlands were handed back to the Urunga community.
  • Soil Conservation Service pioneered innovative techniques to overcome constraints. The project won the 2017 NSW Civil Construction Federation Earth Awards Category 3 ($5-10 Million).

The challenge

In the early 1970s, an antimony processing plant established at Urunga on the north coast of NSW disposed of a significant quantity of toxic heavy metal tailings into the adjacent freshwater wetlands.

This impacted water quality and large areas of paperbark forest, destroying the ecosystem and rendering it unsafe for human access.

Extreme challenges in engineering, environmental and human safety were overcome to remediate and rehabilitate this site.

Work undertaken

The Soil Conservation Service (SCS) was engaged to execute a comprehensive remediation plan to transform the area.

SCS commenced rehabilitation of the site in April 2015. Our specialist team worked with NSW Department of Industry and over 250 supplies and contractors to achieve this amazing environmental outcome.

Work included clearing and recycling timber and waste metal, installing contaminant monitoring stations and decontamination areas, constructing a containment cell, importing clean materials for engineering purposes, water testing and disposal, and constructing a boardwalk to facilitate public access.

As part of the site’s rehabilitation, around 36,400 tonnes of contaminated material was treated and isolated.

This has significantly improved water quality, both on the foreshore of the wetlands and downstream.

Benefits

The aim of the rehabilitation program was to remediate the site for safe public access, eliminate the unacceptable risk to human health, and minimise any further impact on the adjacent wetland.

A total area of four hectares was rehabilitated for public use, with 1.8 hectares being wetland.

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