No asbestos in Port Kembla stack: test results

Despite ‘‘slightly elevated’’ levels of arsenic and iron, the dust from the demolition of the Port Kembla stack did not pose any health risks, a report released on Tuesday said.

Golder Associates was engaged by Port Kembla Copper (PKC)  to environmentally manage and monitor the demolition of the stack which was felled on February 20.

As well as Golder Associates, the report said PKC, Precision Demolition, Clearsafe Environmental Solutions and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) were on site to conduct environmental monitoring.

Copies of the Golder report have been submitted to the EPA, NSW Department of Planning, Wollongong City Council, NSW Health and WorkCover.

Extreme close-up of stack explosion. Courtesy: Lost Wollongong

The report said the dust cloud from the demolition dispersed within 10 minutes and passed out to sea ‘‘with only the topographically higher areas near the intersection of Reservoir and Marne streets Port Kembla showing clear evidence of deposited dust.’’

The report noted that a range of ‘‘chemicals of concern’’ were tested for, including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, iron, lead, mercury and zinc.

Samples collected at one monitoring site located near the corner of Reservoir and Electrolytic streets recorded concentrations of arsenic and zinc that were ‘‘slightly elevated’’ when compared with the Ontario Ambient Air Quality guidelines.

Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Picture: ADAM McLEAN

However, the short-term nature of the event limited any health concerns, the report said.

‘‘The inhalation of these metals in the dust plume (if there were people standing in its path) reflects minute inhalation exposure compared with inhalation exposures  that occur over days, months and years,’’ it said.

‘‘The longer the exposure the greater are the risks associated with metal uptake and adverse health outcomes. 

‘‘...Taking these factors into consideration, and on the basis of the available data, metals in dusts within the dust plume while it remained in the air, are not considered to be a cause for concern or risk to health.’’

Members of the community who were opposed to the demolition were concerned about the possibility that asbestos was still present in the stack.

The report said that no asbestos was detected in the dust cloud.

‘‘Asbestos was not reported in any of the samples collected on the day of demolition, indicating risks associated with inhalation of this mineral in dust from the stack are not applicable or present,’’ it said.

‘‘Asbestos was  also not detected in samples collected on the days prior to and following demolition. Based on these data, human health risks associated with asbestos inhalation from the stack demolition are thus not present.’’ 

Also, vibration levels were deemed unlikely to have caused damage to properties and no complaints about noise were received.

The full report is available here.

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