Lovetts Reserve Bush Walking Track Partially Closed Due to Contamination Fears

Lovetts Reserve is located in Lane Cove West and is one of the most popular bushwalking tracks in Lane Cove.  During COVID19 lockdown its popularity soared with Lane Cove residents discovering a beautiful bushwalk overlooking the Lane Cove River.

Lovetts Reserve has also been named, by ITC’s expert running coach Andy Smith, the number one bush trail run in Lane Cove. Read more here.

In fact, Andy Smith runs this track all the time, and last week he was shocked to see that part of the track has been closed.

Lane Cove Council closed part of the track after the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) issued Lane Cove Council with a preliminary investigation notice to assess possible contamination of the land set out in the map below (Specified Land).

The following statement appeared on Lane Cove Council’s website last week:

“The southern section of the walking tracks in Lovetts Reserve is closed while the environmental assessment takes place. There is no access from Burns Bay Road or the Boreen.  Access is still open from Cope Street, Myee Crescent, Penrose Street & Blackman Park.”

How did the EPA Become Aware of the Potential Contamination?

Sydney Water is currently occupying 331 Burns Bay Road as they work on the Northern Suburbs Ocean Outfall Sewer.  This is a tunnel that is over 26 kilometres long and extends from Parramatta all the way to Manly.

A spokesperson for Sydney Water previously told ITC this work is essential to ensure they continue to protect public health and the cleanliness of Sydney harbour.

Work started in January 2017, and crews access the NSOOS at numerous locations including 331 Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove West.

Sydney Water notified the EPA of potential contamination at Lovetts Reserve on 14 October 2020.

EPA Investigators visited Lovetts Reserve with Sydney Water on 3 November 2020. They were shown potentially contaminated soil along the track, including coloured rocks, black “sludge-like” materials, and crystalline chalky materials in the soil.

Why Did the EPA issue a Preliminary Investigation Notice?

The EPA’s Preliminary Investigation Notice includes the following:

  • Information provided by Sydney Water indicates that the residential apartment block south-east of the Specified Land may have historically (pre–1970s) been used as a small chemical manufacturing facility or laboratory.
  • On 3 November 2020, the EPA attended the Specified Land with Sydney Water representatives and their Environmental Consultant and was shown potentially contaminated soil and deleterious material observed along the walking path of the Specified Land.
  • The potential contamination (e.g. various coloured rocks, crystalline and/or chalky material in soil, black sludge-like materials) detected along the public walking track and on portions of the adjacent residential apartment block may pose a risk to the public using the walking track, nearby residents, and the nearest environmental receptor (Lane Cove River).
  • The nature and extent of potential soil contamination, including its likely source, has not been determined.

What Contaminates is the EPA Concerned About?

The EPA’s Preliminary Investigation Notice listed the following as suspected to be on the land (Specified Substances):

(i)    Heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, and zinc)

(ii)   Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs);

(iii)  Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), including Naphthalene, total PAHs, and carcinogenic PAHs measured as benzo(a)pyrene toxic equivalent quotient

(iv)  Organochlorine/organophosphorus pesticides (OCPs/OPPs);

(v)   Asbestos;

(vi)  Petroleum hydrocarbon compounds, measured as total recoverable hydrocarbons (TRH); and

(vii) Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes (BTEX).

The above substances were detected in soil samples at locations adjacent to the Specified Land. The EPA suspects the Specified Land may also be potentially contaminated with the Specified Substances. The Specified Substances are known to bioaccumulate and persistent in the environment.

What is Lane Cove Council’s Next Step?

The Lane Cove Council must appoint a suitably qualified contaminated land consultant with EPA-recognised certification to undertake the following.

  • By 5:00 P.M. on 23 December 2020, prepare and submit to the EPA a scope of works, including timeframes, for environmental investigations that will be undertaken to address the points below:
  • Carry out investigations to determine:
    • Historical uses and owners of the Specified Land.
    • Whether the land is contaminated with substances.
    • The nature and extent of any such contamination, including potential migration towards Lane Cove River.

The Lane Cove Council must provide the EPA with a preliminary environmental site investigation report by 17th February 2021.

What Was the Land’s Previous Use?

The Land on the Lovetts Reserve side of Burns Bay Road is not known for its industrial use.  The Land on the other side of Burns Bay Road (Waterview Drive) was a large industrial estate owned by the Ludowici Family.  Numerous books and articles have been written about the family and their business.

ITC hit the Local Studies section of the Lane Cove Library to track down the Land’s Previous Use.  We were about to give up when we spotted a report dated 11 December 1956 in a file relating to another Burns Bay Road property.


In 1956 the Lane Cove Council was obviously concerned about the factories on Burns Bay Road and sent out the Chief Health Inspector to investigate.

R V Waddington previously used a building located at 315 Burns Bay Road (adjoining Lovett’s Reserve) as a Vinegar Factory.  In 1956, the building was owned by R V Waddington, Petroleum Products of Australia and Dengate & McKinstry Engineering Contractors.

The reports states:

“The first two named businesses are controlled by Mr Phelps who classifieds the business as “Industrial Chemical Manufacturers” manufacturing special oils and greases, week-killers etc.”

The factories main role was to provide supplies to the railways and always have ready a least 50 drums of one “particular commodity” on hand and available for immediate delivery.  The report further states that all drums are stored outside.

The report’s second last paragraph probably sums up the environmental stewardship of the factory in 1956.

The mention of express highway probably refers to a possible widening of Burns Bay Road after Fig Tree Bridge was upgraded.

Unfortunately, we could not find any information on R V Waddington or Petroleum Products of Australia in any of the numerous books in the local study section of the Lane Cove Library (including local Brian Scott’s excellent book The Business of the Lane Cove River).


Official Statements from the EPA and Lane Cove Council

When ITC asked the EPA for more information about the preliminary inspection notice a spokesperson from the EPA advised:

  • The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is assisting Lane Cove Council and Sydney Water with investigations into potentially contaminated land near Burns Bay Rd.
  • During a site inspection, EPA officers observed black slag, coloured rocks and crystalline-like materials. Sydney Water has removed a small amount of non-friable asbestos fragments.
  • As a precaution, Lane Cove Council has closed part of the walking track near the potential contamination, while the investigation happens.

When we asked the Lane Cove Council for a comment they advised:

“Lovetts Reserve is a bushland reserve that features local bushwalking tracks. Part of the southern section of the Lovetts Reserve bushwalking track has been closed following an EPA order. Council is yet to determine if the area is contaminated precautions however have been taken, e.g. the amount of track that is closed is more than the area that the EPA identified as requiring a preliminary site assessment.   

The area identified for testing is the area for investigation, not the area in which contamination has been found as the testing is still to come.

Council was not aware of the potential issue before the notice. As far as can be determined today, it appears locals had not notified Council’s Bushcare team of this potential issue.

Lane Cove’s Bushcare volunteers work further up in the Reserve, entering off Cope Street. The professional bush regenerators who work in parts of the area which are now closed have ceased work until further notice.

Council is working with the EPA to meet their timeframes for a report to be provided in 2021 with the first step being to appoint professionals to undertake the testing. The deadline to enlist their services is pre-Christmas.

Bushwalkers can still access other walking tracks in Lovetts Reserve from Cope  Street, Myee Crescent, Penrose Street & Blackman Park.”

Running Track Advice from Andy Smith

Andy Smith told us the following:

“As you head northbound up Burns Bay Road from the Figtree Bridge there is an entry into the trail just before the intersection with Riverview Drive (see map below). The trail is closed from this entry point through to where there is a trail junction that is accessed from Cope Street (the orange section in the attached map).

I was running up Burns Bay Rd this week, so instead of entering the trail at the usual spot I continued further up and turned left into Cope Street then joined the trail at the end of the road (the green area in the attached map).”


Read the EPA Notice here.

Closer to Blackman Park, Ventemans Reach is closed due to safety concerns. From north of the Stringybark Creek Footbridge to south of the Pumphouse historic site.   ITC understands that there may have been asbestos found in this area (but we have yet to confirm this).

Thank you to Andy Smith for the photographs in this article.  Read Andy’s latest running article about stair climbs in Lane Cove here.

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