Did Demolition of Power Plant Spread Asbestos?
The Alcoa Corporation recently demolished an old power plant on the Surf Coast of Victoria (Australia), despite warnings that there was still toxic asbestos inside the plant.
Now, locals are worried about the health ramifications of the company’s actions.
According to an account of the demolition on the Australian Broadcast Company (ABC) website, a whistleblower – a former worker at the plant – reported his concern that there was still asbestos on the property, but no steps were taken to remediate the issue.
Instead, Alcoa went ahead with plans for demolition a second time, after a first attempt failed a few months earlier.
The ex-worker noted in records obtained by ABC that much of the asbestos had been removed from the structure but that there were other asbestos-containing items that remained, namely gaskets, flanges, and connecting valves.
Those pieces, he said, were in locations that were hard to reach so no attempts were made to dispose of them properly before demolition took place.
“My concern is the flanges being torn apart during the explosive collapse, creating friable fibres,” the whistleblower said, adding that it is possible that some cable trays still inside the structure also contain asbestos.
However, Alcoa has been ordered by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to release air monitoring results from seven sites surrounding the station to ensure that levels of asbestos fibers in the air at those locations do not exceed allowable limits after the demolition. Some of those locations are near residential neighborhoods.
Though the company has not commented on the whistleblower’s report nor released the current air monitoring results, a spokesperson for Alcoa noted that “air monitoring after the first attempted demolition did not detect asbestos fibres above health and safety exposure standards.”
“The safety of all site personnel and the community is Alcoa’s priority,” he said.
Still, locals are rightfully concerned. Sarah Henderson, whose home isn’t far from the newly-demolished plant, said she was deeply concerned about the risk of asbestos fibres being released into the community.
“While Alcoa has promoted the proposed timeframe being the first week of October, there has been, in effect, only one day’s notice,” she said of the demolition.
“Given the proximity of the Anglesea Primary School and the local kindergarten, I am pleased that this is occurring during the school holidays.”