WA bushfires: Contamination slows Yarloop fire clean-up

WA bushfires: Contamination slows Yarloop fire clean-up

26 May 2016

published by http://www.perthnow.com.au

Australia — ASBESTOS and heavy metals have been discovered following a bushfire that wiped out most of Yarloop and killed two men, slowing the clean-up of the WA town.

State Recovery Controller Ken Michael said the contamination, which includes asbestos fragments and fibres and elevated heavy metal concentrations, required specialist management and removal.

“These may have previously been safely contained, but now require careful management and disposal,” Dr Michael said on Thursday.

“We understand community concerns at the rate and cost of the clean-up.

“The clean-up work is complex and the management and disposal of contaminants will result in additional costs to government.”

Dr Michael said the extent of the contamination was not yet known, but was not expected to affect the clean-up schedule of between six to nine months.

“The bulk of the asbestos contamination involves asbestos fragments, including fence and roof sheeting, which has remained undisturbed or has been dispersed across large areas of the town as a result of the fire,” he said.

“We have found asbestos fragments in the burnt ruins of homes, underneath some demolished homes and across large areas of public open space, as well as heavy metals including lead around industrial areas such as the old railway workshops and foundry areas.”

Dr Michael said only small amounts of the more hazardous asbestos fibres had been found and they were mostly underground.

So far, 69 Yarloop properties have been inspected, 20 have been demolished and 10 demolitions are under way.

The January blaze killed two men and destroyed 181 properties, including 162 houses and the heritage-listed Yarloop Workshops.

Former head of the Victorian Country Fire Authority, Euan Ferguson, was given powers similar to a royal commission to review the lightning-sparked bushfire.

He handed his report to the public sector commissioner earlier this month but the emergency services minister is yet to see it.

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