Asbestos has been found at the ancient Darwin Hospital site by contractors in the same area as the Northern Territory Government’s proposed new $50 million museum.
Senior director at the Department of Infrastructure, Plotting and Logistics Graeme Finch said the asbestos was learned on a small area by workers yesterday.
“We’ve been in the process of clearing coffee bush out of the far corner of the ancient Darwin Hospital site closest to Cullen Bay at the request of some residents,” he said.
“In that process we’ve identified that there are bits of asbestos scattered through what looks like some soil material that’s been dumped there over time.
“We’ve locked the site down and [we’re] engaging with NT Worksafe and the NT EPA just in regards to an asbestos management plot so that we can first make it safe and second go through the process of what to do with that part of the site.”
Mr Finch said the asbestos that was found was a mixture of pieces ranging from the size of a 50-cent piece to intact piece of pipe.
He also said the asbestos-ridden area had been closed off to the public, but the rest of the area would remain open and was deemed safe.
“It’s not huge quantities of it, we have had air monitors up yesterday afternoon and weren’t able to detect any fibres and so it’s more of a case that it’s there and we know about it and it’s now just a case of addressing it,” Mr Finch said.
Coffee bush potentially protected toxic material
He said it appeared the asbestos had been kept shaded and intact by the coffee bushes.
“The fragments of asbestos appear to be in quite excellent condition,” he said.
“We reckon that because it’s been under coffee bush for all these years that it hasn’t been releasing fibres so provided we keep it wet and we deal with it we don’t believe it’s anything to get concerned over.”
It was not clear, but, how the asbestos material finished up at the site.
“We’re not sure where it’s from, some of the pieces seem to be quite ancient, could be Cyclone Tracy, could be the demolition of the ancient Darwin Hospital, it could be illegal dumping over time,” Mr Finch said.
“It’s very hard to tell where it’s come from, the main issue is it’s there and we just need to deal with it.”
As for the construction of the Northern Territory Government’s proposed new $50 million museum on the site, Mr Finch said the department was looking into how to remediate the area but did not reckon it would affect overall construction.
“At the end of the day it’s a very small part of the site, it is very contained, we’re able to easily identify where it is and the possibilities are very strong we will deal with it well before 2019,” he said.
But Mr Finch said he did not know how long the remediation works would take and the department was considering leaving the asbestos in place for the wet season.
“It’s likely that we’ll just contain it for this wet season and just stabilise the slope and make sure it doesn’t spread anywhere else.”
It comes a small over a month after the pathology building at Alice Springs Hospital was closed after tests revealed an asbestos contamination.
In May, local residents in Yuendumu, 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs, told the ABC they were worried about the health impacts of asbestos that sits loose on the ground on the outskirts of the remote town.
And at the beginning of the year, residents in Tennant Creek called on the NT and federal governments to offer their children health checks, after they unknowingly played in a vandalised building containing asbestos bought by the town’s largest Aboriginal corporation with Commonwealth money.
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