CONCERNED residents of Port Augusta fiercely engaged state Minister for Environment Ian Hunter during his visit to Port Augusta following recent outbreaks of ash clouds.
Visiting the site of the former Northern Power Station, near the 250 hectare site where the ash originates from, Mr Hunter first addressed the waiting media and said he’s told Flinders Power, the company in charge of the site, they need to be ‘more responsive’ to community concerns. “I expressed to the company to be much more proactive in dealing with these weather events and getting the gel back onto the crust so as to minimise the dust that is kicked up and can fly over the city,” Mr Hunter said.
It follows earlier events which saw large amounts of ash cloud engulf Port Augusta. The dust has been first reported in the middle of last year but an unusual storm event on December 28 saw about 25 per-cent of average yearly rainfall hit Port Augusta, requiring the dust suppressant to be reapplied. That reapplication will take between 7-9 days. Mr Hunter met with about 25 enraged local community members wearing health masks, and felt the full wrath of their concerns. Disgruntled Port Augusta resident Penny Archer said her biggest concern is make-up of ash and the long term health effects.
“I have two children, one with an auto-immune disease who has been forced to stay inside for a week due to concerns about the ash cloud,” Penny said. Kelly Anne Reynolds said the dust has had such a negative impact on Port Augusta, she’s been told of people who are moving elsewhere because of it.
This follows a release by the Environmental Protection Authority saying the issue of adverse health effects from fine particles still remains in spite of the relatively low toxic potential of the dust emanating from the site.
Flinders Power’s long-term solution for the site is to develop top soil on the whole Ash Storage Area and seed it with native grasses and plants. That process has started and is expected to take between 5-6 months. Mr Hunter was asked why that permanent solution wasn’t put in place first to which he replied, ‘They (Flinders Power) had to issue contracts and get the appropriate approvals which they have now done’. Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson wants a state government inquiry into the ash cloud’s effects on public health and for Mr Hunter to ‘grow a set and put some regulations into place’.
“It’s about time he realised where he was in the pecking order, and actually fronted up, stood up and told the EPA you are going to do X,Y, Z,” Mr Johnson said. Residents concerned about their health concerns are urged to contact their local GP immediately.