The Guardian January 23, 2002


Pollution at Fremantle's Port Beach

One of Perth's most popular beaches, Port Beach in Fremantle, has become 
a very dangerous place to swim. Swimmers recently discovered chunks of 
asbestos washed up on the beach along with hundreds of rocks. There are 
reports that old roofing material made from asbestos has been found.

The President of the Asbestos Diseases Society, Mr Robert Vojakovic, said 
he was concerned for children at the beach who might take asbestos chunks 
with them unaware of the dangers. The debris also posed a risk of physical 
injury to swimmers. He said he suspected the asbestos chunks were 
demolition waste and has called for the beach to be closed.

Kevin Watkins a former maintenance worker and shop steward at the Fremantle 
Port Authority spoke with Mr Vojakovic after reading about the 
contamination in a Perth newspaper.

Mr Watkins has confirmed that he had worked on a demolition site at 
Victoria Quay in the mid-1980s and that he had quarrelled with the Port 
Authority after discovering that the asbestos waste was being dumped onto 
North Mole, close to Port Beach.

Mr Watkins said that "the practice was to dump stuff on the North Mole 
among the rocks. Maybe after a long time it has become dislodged."

Mr Watkins says when he confronted a truck driver telling him not to dump 
the asbestos at the Mole all hell broke loose. He contacted union officials 
who put pressure on authorities, forcing the port bosses to stop the 
practice.

It was then put in plastic bags and buried said Mr Watkins. The Port 
Authority also started giving out masks and overalls to workers who were 
disposing of it.

Fremantle Port Authority General Manager Kerry Sanderson said that while 
the source of the material had not been determined it was not from the now 
demolished North Quay grain silos.

He did admit to the Fremantle Herald however, that "the rubble 
washing up on Port Beach, including a small amount of asbestos-cement 
fragments, is from material dumped off North Mole many years ago".

Many locals believe that the contamination is either from a construction or 
demolition site and that some form of negligence was involved. Locals 
believe that those responsible should be held accountable.

As one person commented, "Past neglect and or ignorance should not absolve 
or diminish culpability".

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