Botched Demolition of Power Station Causes Asbestos Concerns
The failed demolition of an old Alcoa power station on the Surf Coast of Victoria (Australia) has caused great concern among individuals who live near the half-century-old plant, prompting them to believe that the asbestos in the plant may have circulated through the region, harming residents.
The coal-fired station in the town of Anglesea had operated for 46 years when Alcoa decided it was time for it to come down. The company claims it spent 12 months ridding the structure of asbestos, but the local environment organization known as Surf Coast Air Action said it was “very concerned the explosion did not go according to plan, and that it happened outside the allocated time when the wind was blowing towards the town.”
“I was not convinced that the community had been properly informed,” said Parliament member Sara Henderson. “The school received just four days’ notice and the kindergarten just one day’s notice and this is not something to be taken lightly.
“There had been of course a lot of asbestos in the building and there was very sufficient community concern and many people simply did not know what was going on,” she added.
Alcoa, however, maintains that there was nothing to be worried about when the plant failed to come down in its entirety. Others, nonetheless, are calling for proof and are asking for a judicial inquiry.
But Alcoa is exempt from freedom of information (FOI) requests made by the public, which means the company is not required to reveal details about reports to those who live in the region or to politicians or media, reports The New Daily.
“Regrettably we’re at a point where [the judicial inquiry] is the only satisfactory answer because Alcoa has a culture of secrecy,” said Andrew Laird of Surf Coast Air Action.
“It has refused point blank to release the expert reports and risk assessments that were down prior to the failed demolition.”
The reports the organization seeks would show the levels of asbestos left in the building and would also show any air monitoring reports made after the failed demolition.
“We need to get site clean-ups right. When things go wrong, such as big companies botching a demolition, we need to understand why and set the bar higher so it doesn’t happen again,” agreed Nick Aberle of Environment Victoria, adding that governments needed to learn to deal with the legacy of disused facilities in the years to come.