SA Government to pay for health checks for ash-affected Port Augusta residents
9 Jan 2017
Port Augusta residents worried about the impacts of an ash cloud blowing over the regional city will have their health checks paid for by the South Australian Government.
A thick haze of ash from the former coal-fired station has been affecting residents for about a week, after storms broke the crust of the existing dust suppressant.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) last week said there were not enough toxins in the dust to cause health concerns, but pointed out that breathing in fine dust could harm people in its own right regardless of toxicity levels.
EPA spokesman Tony Circelli said recent testing showed there was no asbestos in the ash.
“We analysed that over the weekend and concluded that there are no asbestos fibres seen in that sample, it’s a two-and-a-half week sample,” he said.
Manufacturing Minister Kyam Maher said the Government would pay for any residents to see a doctor if they needed.
But Mr Maher said the Government still wanted Flinders Power, the company responsible for managing the site, to pay it back.
“We’ll still continue discussions with Flinders Power,” Mr Maher said.
“We think the dust storm was the result of their responsibility for remediation failing during the big rains in December.
“But I know this is a significant concern. We won’t wait any longer, and the Government will pay for it now.”
Flinders Power said it could not comment on the health checks.
Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson said doctors in the city were so busy that his GP did not have an available appointment until the end of next month.
But he said the Government had made the right decision to fund health checks.
“One thing I am pleased about is as opposed to a tussle between the Government and Flinders Power over whose going to pay for it, they’ve taken the lead and said let’s get this show on the road and we’ll work it out after,” Mr Johnson said.
The EPA has ordered Flinders Power to conduct more frequent tests on the dust, which it will use to monitor toxicity.
Flinders Power last week began reapplying a dust suppressant over the ash.
Over the weekend, more than 100 loads of topsoil were placed on the surface of the ash storage area as part of the long-term solution which will include planting trees, the company said.
Health hotline goes unanswered
The Government last week set up a health hotline for residents, but the State Opposition said it went unanswered over the weekend.
Strong winds kicked up another wave of the ash on Saturday.
Opposition spokesman Stephen Wade said when residents called the hotline for advice, they got a paging service, asking them to leave their number so someone could call them back during office hours.
“We had high winds in Port Augusta, we had reports there was possibility of asbestos in the fly ash cloud,” Mr Wade said.
“I’m sure the concerns in the Port Augusta community were elevated over the weekend.
“When they call what they thought was a hotline, [they] end up with a call back service. I think they’d be very disappointed.”