All clear given to health effects of the Mitchell Fire

By 23 September, 2011 8

pcb fire

The Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate has released the results of their testing following the Mitchell Fire and announced that 420,000 litres of PCB containing oil have burned off, despite the best efforts of the Fire Brigade to pour water onto them as they burned, without any ill effects whatsover.

If the testing is accurate this would appear to have been a miracle deserving a saint to pin it on.

[Photo by Welkin31]

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8 Responses to All clear given to health effects of the Mitchell Fire
#1
I-filed11:22 pm, 23 Sep 11

The page only mentions the 400,000 litres of oil that were PRE treatment.

What was the quantity on site, of the PCBs removed from oil already? Oil that once cleaned was shipped out? There could have been, one would think, a massive concentration of PCBs that had been removed from millions and millions of litres of oil sitting in that place. What was the disposal method for those concentrated contaminants?

Where’s the explanation for the thousands of complaints of burning throats and headaches – let alone all those who like me experienced those symptoms but didn’t report them? Where’s the scientific testing of the humans who were exposed to the smoke? What if the smoke dropped residue more intensely further away than the spot testing, which appears to have been very close to the Mitchell premises – nothing like 10 km away. Couldn’t a plume of smoke have had enough upward velocity to not be dropping contaminants until further away?

#2
supamodel8:25 am, 24 Sep 11

The main process (overseas) to remove PCBs from oil is incineration. Leav it burning at 1200 degrees and all is good. It’s when you starve it of oxygen and have it cooler you produce things such as phosgene or dioxins. Incineration of PCBs is outlawed in Australia (and Japan, too).

The process used at ESI appears to be the sodium process. Powdered sodium is reacted with the oil, leaving clean oil and sodium chloride. The latter is commonly known as salt :) . (depending on the reaction rates one can also end up with less nasty chlorinated organic polymers in minor concentrations).

So pre-treated oil is the worry. The PCBs are reacted out, not physically separated.

The sodium on site reacting with the water used to cool the fire is why the ash is also reported to harm metals – sodium plus water produces hydrogen and sodium hydroxide, known as caustic soda.

One can get headaches etc from big oil fires containing no PCBs, it is not am indication of something nefarious.

Note I don’t work for the EPA, ESI, the firies or anything like that. Just a scientist who did a bit of reading on the stuff involved in the blaze.

#3
Rawhide Kid Part310:53 am, 24 Sep 11

I-filed said :

Where’s the explanation for the thousands of complaints of burning throats and headaches – let alone all those who like me experienced those symptoms but didn’t report them?

If you had those symptoms, why didn’t you go and report them? It would have helped you and the general analiese of the situation.

#4
I-filed10:04 am, 25 Sep 11

Corbell said on radion this morning that he isn’t releasing air results because “the particulate matter that fell to the ground” is identical to the air plume tests.

That can’t be, surely? If the smoke was travelling through the air and causing health issues, presumably much of the smoke – the lighter “particulate matter” and various gases – would either have fallen to the ground much further away, or eventually dispersed into the atmosphere.

Why the obfuscation? Is he hiding something? Trying to avoid health testing and action on this?

#5
GardeningGirl4:01 pm, 25 Sep 11

I-filed said :

Corbell said on radion this morning that he isn’t releasing air results because “the particulate matter that fell to the ground” is identical to the air plume tests.

So be boring and release the identical results. Not a good look otherwise.

#6
I-filed8:31 pm, 25 Sep 11

GardeningGirl said :

I-filed said :

Corbell said on radion this morning that he isn’t releasing air results because “the particulate matter that fell to the ground” is identical to the air plume tests.

So be boring and release the identical results. Not a good look otherwise.

Did you read my post? Doesn’t sound like it.

#7
GardeningGirl11:00 pm, 25 Sep 11

Sorry, guess my post didn’t come across as intended, it was just my immediate reaction to the idea that the results don’t need to be released because they’re just like the other results. Trying again . . . .

If Mr Corbell doesn’t feel the need to release some of the results because they are identical to some of the other results he should just go ahead and be boring and repetitive, because not releasing ALL of the results is going to raise questions.

#8
I-filed8:45 am, 26 Sep 11

GardeningGirl said :

Sorry, guess my post didn’t come across as intended, it was just my immediate reaction to the idea that the results don’t need to be released because they’re just like the other results. Trying again . . . .

If Mr Corbell doesn’t feel the need to release some of the results because they are identical to some of the other results he should just go ahead and be boring and repetitive, because not releasing ALL of the results is going to raise questions.

You still haven’t read it! Read the bit about particulate matter not necessarily reflecting what is in the smoke itself. Then comment!

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