Remediation of Bonnie Vale campground has started which will lead to it’s eventual reopening.
Why was it closed?
The campground was closed in September 2018 as a result of asbestos concerns in the tent site areas. The very dry conditions in the months leading up to the closure combined with ground disturbances from tent pegs and foot traffic resulted in asbestos fragments being exposed to the surface.
Asbestos fibres are known to cause serious health hazards in humans with asbestosis which causes lung scarring and mesothelioma an organ cancer being of most concern. Land contaminiated by asbestos is regulated by the NSW Environment Protection Authority. The EPA monitors contaminiated sites and has the power to close accces to sites which have a risk to human health.
The EPA in concert with NPWS has a mangement plan to monitor and manage asbestos at the Bonnie Vale site. Access is still open to Bonnie Vale picnic area and boat launch as is pedestrian access between Bonnie Vale and Maianbar.
How did it get contaminated?
The origin of the asbestos at Bonnie Vale to the erection of cabins built from asbestos which date as far back as to the 1930s. During the 1950s, in it’s peak, Bonnie Vale had 170 cabins forming a community of weekenders as well as permament and semi-permament residents.
In 1966 NSW State Government declared the cabins in the Royal National Park would be cleaned out. Over time NPWS has reclaimed the cabin areas for public use with only about half a dozen cabins still remaining. However, the demolition of the cabins resulted in some of the asbestos being buried into the ground. This was done at a time when the awareness of asbestos health concerns was not as well known as today.
In September 2020 NPWS announced remediation works would begin at Bonnie Vale campground area. The works would involve adding a 200mm to 500mm layer of clean top soil on the existing campground site. There is also consideration for raised campground platforms. This would minimise the risk of campers coming into contact with asbestos fibres at the original ground level.
Before the remediation works can begin NPWS is performing Aboriginal archaeological test excavations within the Bonnie Vale campground and day use area. Aboriginal cultural material has been identified in this location. This work is part of the Aboriginal heritage assessment process and will inform the remediation works.
The archaeological test excavations and assessment has potential to uncover fascinating new insights about the Dharawal people, the traditional owners of the Bundeena area. This work will be carried out at the campgrounds and day use area will start in October 2020 and run for approximately 2 weeks.
Fencing off of the campground area has already been completed with access to the remaining cabins being accommodated for. The archaeological excavations along with the remediation works are scheduled to run over the next year with the campground expected to reopen to visitors in late 2021.