Western Australia’s Water Corporation says ongoing asbestos contamination near a key water pipeline poses no risk to the public water supply.
Land around the pumping station at Ghooli, 14 kilometres east of Southern Cross on the historic Goldfields Pipeline, has been under quarantine for nearly three years due to the presence of the potentially deadly material.
Designed by renowned engineer CY O’Connor and built between 1896 and 1903, the pipeline delivers fresh water from Mundaring Weir in the Perth Hills 600km east to Kalgoorlie-Boulder and Coolgardie.
It remains one of the longest fresh water pipelines in the world, but the age of the infrastructure and ongoing supply pressures have sparked calls for ongoing upgrades and diversification of regional water sources.
Find sparks three-year clean-up
Water Corporation officials initially identified asbestos at the 114-year-ancient pump building during a routine inspection in September 2014.
While that material was removed in 2015, Water Corporation Goldfields and Agricultural regional manager Sharon Broad said further inspection of surrounding land revealed more extensive contamination.
“There is an ancient steam pump station and settlement which, like many buildings constructed in WA at the time, contains asbestos materials,” Ms Broad said.
“There is an operational pump station and two reservoirs, but there is no risk to the public drinking water supply.”
Other risky material at the site includes construction waste and boiler ash identified to contain asbestos.
Ms Broad said the Corporation had spent more than $100,000 on plotting and expertise needed to clean up the area.
“As the Ghooli Pump Station has been in operation for over 100 years, the task of identifying all of the past operational activities required a very thorough and methodical approach, which took some time to complete,” Ms Broad said.
No reports of exposure or contamination
Asbestos management has been a tough issue for the Water Corporation, with the exposure of nearly 100 workers in the Wheatbelt community of Wyalkatchem sparking calls for an independent inquiry in 2015.
Ms Broad said the utility went to fence the area off at Ghooli as soon as the extent of the contamination was realised.
Contaminated areas were also sprayed down with a stabilisation solution, while air monitoring indicates no reported concentration of asbestos above the detection limit.
“Water corporation has not received any reports of exposure from workers or local residents,” Ms Broad said.
“As a precautionary measure, we spoke to neighbouring properties and landowners to discuss their past interactions with the site.”
She said the Corporation had submitted its final clean-up plot to the Department of Environment Regulation in May, and expected to have the site completely decontaminated by the end of 2017.
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