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Canberra’s Boutique Real Estate and Property Management

Greens arc up about health and environmental effects of the Mitchell fire

By johnboy 19 September 2011 33

mitchell fire photo by James

The Greens’ Shane Rattenbury is asking some much needed questions about what exactly was spewed into the air on Friday during the Mitchell fire.

“The chemicals involved in this fire were polychlorinated biphenyls, known as PCBs, one of the chemicals banned under the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants. The burning of such chemicals can result in the release of dioxins and other chemicals which do not break down easily in the environment.

“The community needs clear information about which areas have been tested, what pollutants and by-products are being tested for and clear advice about the results.

“We also need to see a full inventory of all the chemicals that were at the site, and certainty that there weren’t other substances that went up in the fire.

“So many suburbs in the north part of Canberra were told to stay indoors and close their windows, and yet it’s unclear that there is any residue testing going outside of Mitchell itself.

“There also remains the question of particulate matter that may have spread outside the ACT’s borders – has the government taken action to communicate to our Palerang neighbours the possible risks?

“Canberra residents in affected suburbs need clear guidance about what to do in regards to rain water tanks, children’s outdoor play equipment and vegetable gardens in these areas.

I know I can report stinging mucous membranes and low level headaches on Friday, so something was about.


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33 Responses to
Greens arc up about health and environmental effects of the Mitchell fire
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GardeningGirl 2:34 pm 24 Sep 11

Palifox said :

To be perfectly blunt, a full list of the chemicals on site and those detected in the smoke cloud would not be understood by perhaps 95% of the ACT population. I have seen comments on here that show the posters do not even understand the sort of chemistry I was taught at the age of 14 years.
Giving things their proper chemical names, or even their trivial names would have the Chicken Littles squarking. We may laugh at “dihydrogen monoxide” but it fooled a New Zealand parliamentarian.

I don’t say that full disclosure is a bad idea, I’m saying that for most people it is utterly pointless.

Heheh, dihydrogen monoxide.

I’ve often wished news reports would include the relevant facts but they dumb everything down to “chemicals”. There seem to be two classes of chemicals, front page news chemicals and chemicals that can be disregarded. I wonder how many people who are worried about the front page news chemicals involved in the fire have never bothered to read the fine print or obtain a Material Safety Data Sheet for the poisons they have stored in their garden shed. I wonder how many of them have never thought to wonder what they’re breathing when they have their nails done, a little research should lead them to a Choice magazine article which explained the difference between the cheaper substance and the safer substance and why it’s important to ask your nail place which one they use. And the list goes on . . . But if it’s not front page news it doesn’t matter, until after the event when everyone wonders why “they” didn’t protect us.

Palifox 1:04 pm 24 Sep 11

To be perfectly blunt, a full list of the chemicals on site and those detected in the smoke cloud would not be understood by perhaps 95% of the ACT population. I have seen comments on here that show the posters do not even understand the sort of chemistry I was taught at the age of 14 years.
Giving things their proper chemical names, or even their trivial names would have the Chicken Littles squarking. We may laugh at “dihydrogen monoxide” but it fooled a New Zealand parliamentarian.

I don’t say that full disclosure is a bad idea, I’m saying that for most people it is utterly pointless.

Gungahlin Al 2:45 pm 20 Sep 11

KaptnKaos said :

So let me get this straight, the greens pushed for this oil recycling place in Mitchell in the first place.
Now that there has been a fire they don’t want anything to do with it and asking “why were there chemicals stored there so close to homes and people”, “why weren’t we told this could happen” and are looking at pointing fingers at someone else to lay the blame on.

Who said that??

creative_canberran 1:33 pm 20 Sep 11

yellowsnow said :

It’ll be interesting to see whether ESI was even legally entitled to do the things it was doing at its Mitchell location. Was the govt even aware of its exact activities and the substances stored there? The company sounds pretty dodgy to me. I suspect a large part of this story is yet to play out.

In the end the govt will probably all too conveniently make the dodgy company a scapegoat and avoid discussions of its own planning and regulatory failings.

Worksafe had inspected the premises recently according to ESA and deemed it all in order. If they were doing anything illegal, they had been given tacit permission to continue if that’s the case.

KaptnKaos 1:09 pm 20 Sep 11

So let me get this straight, the greens pushed for this oil recycling place in Mitchell in the first place.
Now that there has been a fire they don’t want anything to do with it and asking “why were there chemicals stored there so close to homes and people”, “why weren’t we told this could happen” and are looking at pointing fingers at someone else to lay the blame on.

MissChief 11:57 am 20 Sep 11

madamcholet said :

MissChief said :

Something’s askew when we’re told on the one hand that test results have found conclusively that there are no contaminants or toxins from the fire and on the other that the EPA have completely contained the contaminated stretches of waterway around Mitchell and will continue to monitor the site until the waterways have been flushed.

I took it to mean that the air quality was not effected. When you are dousing flames that high and the “water” is hitting the chemicals, of course there will be some run off. With the best of intentions, it’s not possible to contain every last drop, although I understand that it was still a good outcome in relation to fire water contamination. They would have assessed where the water was running to, probably based on the site plan and attempted to block those access points at the same time as getting the fire under control.

No, not what they meant when they said tests on air, water and soil have conclusively shown no toxins or contamination.

Interestingly enough there’s a couple of article in today’s Canberra Times, one saying business owners have been denied access to their premises because tests are still being carried out and another questionning what tests have been carried out to date.

nice_enough 10:18 am 20 Sep 11

My eyes were sore and itchy all day on Friday (I live in Watson) I don’t get hay-fever and I definitely felt short of breath until I left and went to work all cleared up a shortly after.

How PCB’s can be stored so close to residential area’s in a tin shed is beyond me.

I applaud the Greens for standing up for us, and wanting to get to the bottom of it. Where is Zed? Where is Katey?

madamcholet 10:04 am 20 Sep 11

MissChief said :

Something’s askew when we’re told on the one hand that test results have found conclusively that there are no contaminants or toxins from the fire and on the other that the EPA have completely contained the contaminated stretches of waterway around Mitchell and will continue to monitor the site until the waterways have been flushed.

I took it to mean that the air quality was not effected. When you are dousing flames that high and the “water” is hitting the chemicals, of course there will be some run off. With the best of intentions, it’s not possible to contain every last drop, although I understand that it was still a good outcome in relation to fire water contamination. They would have assessed where the water was running to, probably based on the site plan and attempted to block those access points at the same time as getting the fire under control.

yellowsnow 10:49 pm 19 Sep 11

It’ll be interesting to see whether ESI was even legally entitled to do the things it was doing at its Mitchell location. Was the govt even aware of its exact activities and the substances stored there? The company sounds pretty dodgy to me. I suspect a large part of this story is yet to play out.

In the end the govt will probably all too conveniently make the dodgy company a scapegoat and avoid discussions of its own planning and regulatory failings.

Gerry-Built 10:03 pm 19 Sep 11

With some of the new information and anecdotes being discovered, I think the event warrants some very, very fine scrutiny…

MissChief 6:15 pm 19 Sep 11

Something’s askew when we’re told on the one hand that test results have found conclusively that there are no contaminants or toxins from the fire and on the other that the EPA have completely contained the contaminated stretches of waterway around Mitchell and will continue to monitor the site until the waterways have been flushed.

I-filed 5:53 pm 19 Sep 11

I had the same symptoms as JB – there in the inner north in the morning, subsided all day at work, back in the evening, then a low-level headache the following morning. I have also had slightly swollen glands in my neck and underarms since Saturday.

It sounds from the various reports as though this little outfit in Mitchell were actually importing transmission fluid for processing from interstate. Is this a company taking advantage of lax local enforcement of environment standards? How do we know what their record-keeping standards were? Have the authorities taken at face value their account of what was in their yard?

Who owns the company? Have the directors fled the country?

Inner north and Gungahlin residents should demand blood tests paid for by the government for later billing to the company concerned, and longterm followup.

Folks, these are cancer-causing agents.

On Saturday afternoon I was walking past Gorman House at 4.00 and one of the foodies was tipping cooking oil down the stormwater grate. Grrreat! That reminded me just how tempting it would be for any business to take the easy route and b*gger the environment. And public health.

GardeningGirl 5:40 pm 19 Sep 11

dungfungus said :

The Greens make me puke. Every day, all over Canberra, the garbage and recycling trucks leak hydraulic and other oils all over our roads (check out the stains where you stand your bins). All this residue goes into out waterways, causes accidents and over time it will degrade the bitumen road surface. But do the Greens care?
No.

What’s with the habit of lurching forward with a big puff of exhaust after picking up the bin and then slamming the brakes on to drop the bin? It must be burning more fuel and wearing out everything from the brakes to the bins faster, but when I once asked about it I was told it saves time. I’ve never gotten the stopwatch out but I’m not sure I’m convinced it has even that “benefit”. That’s just one example of the silly things that continue to go on while we parade around with our token eco-friendly shopping bags.

As for the Greens, I came close to joining many years ago but decided they weren’t really that active in the very area, environmental issues, that prompted me to consider joining. This is one of the rare occasions when I’ve thought good on the Greens. I’ll be watching how they follow it up with interest. A lot of answers are definitely needed.

what_the 4:46 pm 19 Sep 11

yellowsnow said :

Thumper said :

What? Like 2003 when 500 plus homes burnt down?

My point precisely – in the ACT heads never roll, whereas elsewhere (OK, in my ideal world maybe) they might.

The Bruce stadium grass fiasco may be an exception though. Strange thing to get excited about though when you consider all the debacles since then.

I remember the grass fiasco distinctively!! Could you get any dumber than expecting QLD grass not to die on the frosts of Canberra??
Yep, I dont know how ACT Labor is still in power, especially after this GDE complete sh!tfight. I suppose it’s because the Liberals are terrible and no one will vote for them.

The Frots 4:37 pm 19 Sep 11

Gungahlin Al said :

There are a stack of questions that need to be answered that have stemmed from this incident.

I’ll bet for a start that none of the neighbouring businesses had any idea there was such a dangerous business next door.

Then there is the issue of residential zoning. When ACTPLA first released the precinct plans for Franklin in 2007 I raised concerns that it was not adequately buffered from the industrial estate. Fell on deaf ears. The land grab meant they pushed the suburb as close to Mitchell as they possibly could. And to make things worse ACTPLA then approved the greenwaste recycling centre on the actual Well Station Drive road reserve, making it even closer to Franklin houses, with the stick that often comes off that.

Later in 2007 I raised concerns that the redrafting of the Territory Plan did not adequately isolate high-level industrial uses from uses more appropriate for light industry/retail. I said they needed a Heavy Industry zone like most local governments have. Again deaf ears. So now we have a General Industry Zone where even Indoor Recreation, Community Use and Craft Workshop can be next door to this sort of place: http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/ni/2008-27/copy/77512/pdf/2008-27.pdf

We have two “industrial” estates (Mitchell and Fyshwick) that have been compromised by inappropriate uses. And only Hume is well-enough segregated from residential incursions – surely this incident will weigh heavily against Tralee?

So much more to say, but lunch time is over…

I happened to catch G-Al on the 666 air today. Great work Al and it’s a shame they didn’t listen to you all that time ago.

yellowsnow 4:31 pm 19 Sep 11

Thumper said :

What? Like 2003 when 500 plus homes burnt down?

My point precisely – in the ACT heads never roll, whereas elsewhere (OK, in my ideal world maybe) they might.

The Bruce stadium grass fiasco may be an exception though. Strange thing to get excited about though when you consider all the debacles since then.

Deref 4:12 pm 19 Sep 11

EvanJames said :

This is why increasing numbers of voters are turning to the Greens. The majors are so entrenched with big business interests and god-knows who else, that governing primarily for the people just doesn’t happen any more. Interestingly, Palerang Council which Rattenbury mentions now has three councillors who are members of the Greens party (and doing a damn fine job too).

Government should be protecting voters, the little guys, from big business and those who don’t want the little guys to interfere with their business of making a buck.

+1

I’d vote for them ahead of the Laberal Party every time.

dungfungus 3:20 pm 19 Sep 11

The Greens make me puke. Every day, all over Canberra, the garbage and recycling trucks leak hydraulic and other oils all over our roads (check out the stains where you stand your bins). All this residue goes into out waterways, causes accidents and over time it will degrade the bitumen road surface. But do the Greens care?
No.

jessieduck 3:10 pm 19 Sep 11

I made the decision to take my small child out of Downer for the day at about 7am. I had to drive my husband to work anyway so it was just as easy to get what we needed for the day and get clear of the smoke. I just wasn’t happy to risk staying within a few km of the fire with his little lungs in my care.

creative_canberran 2:56 pm 19 Sep 11

EvanJames said :

This is why increasing numbers of voters are turning to the Greens.

An increasing number of voters are turning to The Greens because an increasing number of voters bring new meaning to the term “uninformed”. The Greens are a sham pure and simple. If they were legit, they would spend less time wining about far left socialist issues and more time pushing for real change. Where is the comprehensive, world class e-waste program Canberra should have?

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