Want to buy into an upmarket area at a bargain price?
The West Australian government has sprung into action following the "discovery" that land it sold, and on which homes have been built, sits over groundwater heavily contaminated with a toxic chemical stew leaching from a hazardous waste landfill in the adjoining suburb. The government's response? The Department of Environment and Conservation has placed a caveat on a property's title classifying it as "possibly contaminated", the caveat reducing the property's value by an estimated 70%.
It is, of course, appropriate for government to protect any future buyers in such circumstances but who protects the citizenry from government?
Previously the DEC stated "there was no information to suggest that groundwater contamination was migrating from the former landfill".
But The Sunday Times has a letter from the Health Department dated August 1991, sent to a Mirrabooka resident, which said: "The environmental controls for landfills at that stage (in the 1980s) were not as strict or as sophisticated as they are today and as a consequence the operation of the disposal site is causing a number of problems.
"The most serious of these problems is a significant plume of polluted groundwater which extends for some distance to the southwest of the site."
In the end the government will have no choice other than buying all of the affected properties at uncontaminated values.