Dust cloud, lost potential among concerns

Port Kembla resident Olive Rodwell. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Port Kembla resident Olive Rodwell. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Port Kembla resident Olive Rodwell was so concerned about the dust cloud from the collapse of the Port Kembla stack that she planned to stay indoors for 24 hours after its demolition.

Mrs Rodwell is a member of the Port Kembla Concerned Residents Group, which had concerns  the dust cloud might contain  light particles that could cause lung diseases such as silicosis.

Mrs Rodwell was in the front yard of her house in Reservoir Street, 800metres from the stack, when the explosives were detonated.

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‘‘I was so surprised at the sudden bang of the thing that I jumped,’’ Mrs Rodwell said.

‘‘It was quite loud and that was from 800metres away. I don’t know how loud it would have been for the people up against the barriers.’’

Not long after the explosion, she saw the dust cloud, she said.

‘‘I saw it coming over and I ran straight inside. I had all the doors and windows closed.’’

She said she planned to stay indoors for the rest of the day.

‘‘I’m not going out for 24hours because those light particles could still be in the air.

‘‘I’m not going out until we get something like a good southerly to blow the stuff right away.’’

Wally Pritchard was a part of the Stack 360 group who wanted to use the stack as a  viewing tower.

He couldn’t bring himself to watch yesterday’s detonation.

‘‘I just didn’t want to be in any way part of its demolition,’’ he said.

‘‘I didn’t want to witness it. For me, who had a bit of a vision for it to be something more than a pile of toxic rubble, I don’t think it was something I really wanted to witness.

‘‘So I just stayed away.’’

Mr Pritchard said workers on the stack had reported how special the view was from the top and its demolition signalled the end of a missed opportunity.

‘‘On a day like this, we could have had maybe 10,000 people go up, have a look at that view, have a cup of tea and come down,’’ he said.

‘‘The same thing tomorrow and ad infinitum. You would have had millions of people taking in that view.

‘‘Now for five minutes of dust and glory it’s all gone forever.’’

He said there was one positive in an otherwise sad story – the efforts on Monday night of Wollongong city councillors, who voted to write to Planning Minister Brad Hazzard to gain confirmation that the demolition would be safe.

‘‘I think that for the first time councillors broke out of their bureaucratic cocoon and started addressing an issue from the heart, like real politicians should,’’ he said.

‘‘I think it was a step forward from the council. I hope they draw a lot of heart from that because they stuck up for the community.’’

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