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".