FALSE START: Wet weather delays depot asbestos removal

WET WEATHER has delayed the start of the removal of more than 30,000 cubic metres of asbestos contaminated waste from the site of the Clarence Valley Council's super depot.

The council's director corporate, governance and works, Troy Anderson, said rain in the morning made it impossible for trucks to get in and out of the site on Rushforth Rd, South Grafton, delaying work for 24 hours.

 

A truck which has delivered road fill to the site leaves to get a new load.
A truck which has delivered road fill to the site leaves to get a new load. Tim Howard

Instead workers have been making a road around the site to allow trucks access if further wet weather ensues.

The NSW Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed asbestos has been discovered in screened material the contractors, Hutchinson Builders, have excavated on the site.

Last month they dug up around 900kg of bonded asbestos pipes, halting work on the site.

Mr Anderson said the contractors handling the removal of the contaminated soil are aware of this contamination and would follow procedures approved by the EPA, SafeWork NSW and the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage.

 

One measure the contractors are using on the council depot site to combat asbestos contamination.
One measure the contractors are using on the council depot site to combat asbestos contamination. Tim Howard

He said costs could exceed the early figure of $2.5 million the council estimated to cover the removal of the contaminated waste, but could not arrive at a final figure.

The council has quoted a figure of $70 a tonne to transport and dump the waste at a site near Ipswich in Queensland.

Mr Anderson said said it was hard to know what the 30,000 cubic metres equated to in tonnes.

"It will come down to the density of the soil and other material in it," he said.

He confirmed that all this material would be subject to the $70 a tonne dumping and transport fee, but said there would be additional "professional costs"

These would cover geotechnical work, on-site loading, project management, contractors' fees and other associated costs.

Mr Anderson said the removal of the material would be conducted in accordance with the guidelines provided by the EPA and SafeWork, even though they differed from the council's own guidelines for asbestos disposal.

A truck dumps road base onto the area workers are making for the trucks coming to take away the asbestos contaminated waste on the depot site.
A truck dumps road base onto the area workers are making for the trucks coming to take away the asbestos contaminated waste on the depot site. Tim Howard

In its guidelines for disposal of asbestos the council requires:

  • Asbestos must be lightly damped down and double wrapped in 200kg parcels before transporting to the Landfill. The plastic wrapping must not rupture during the disposal process.
  • When wetting down the water spray should be light enough to ensure no fibres dislodge.
  • Appropriate safety equipment should be used during the removal process.
  • Tippers & ro-ro's maximum 4 tonne per load for sheeting. No load limit on soil.

Mr Anderson said the material would be wetted down and the load covered by a tarpaulin for the journey.

He could not say if the tarpaulin would be airtight, but repeated the method complied with all the safety guidelines from SafeWork and the EPA.

Does this apology cover dust from the site blowing into nearby premises, including the South Grafton High School.
Does this apology cover dust from the site blowing into nearby premises, including the South Grafton High School. Tim Howard

 

Residents and parents of childen at two nearby schools are sceptical of the council's claims.

A concerned parent of children at both South Grafton High and South Grafton Public schools, Warren Henderson, said the council has not been transparent enough with the public about its plans for the site.

"They were just saying 'it's all right, there's no asbestos there'," Mr Henderson said.

"Now they've found some and I don't feel they're telling us everything."

Mr Henderson said he was surprised the contractor's environment officer did not address the public meeting last week the council called to address the issue.

"When he was speaking Anderson would look at her and she would nod or shake her head, but she never spoke," Mr Henderson said.

 

Residents have complained the asbestos warning signs around the depot site are not big enough.
Residents have complained the asbestos warning signs around the depot site are not big enough. Tim Howard

He was also worried that the council was moving the material to Queensland because it cost less than the NSW Government fees of between $240 and $275 a tonne to dispose of asbestos contaminated material.

"It's a worry they're going for the cheap option rather than the top of the line method," he said.

"It's people's safety and health they're dealing with."



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