Esperance lead cleanup complete

Esperance has finally finished its massive lead clean up and recovery project after the disastrous lead contamination of 2007.

An inquiry into the incident found that lead dust had escaped from the port after Magellan Metal’s lead carbonate was loaded onto ships in windy conditions.

This also resulted in temporarily elevated levels of lead in the bloodstream of children in Esperance.

According to WA minister for emergency services, Troy Buswell, the three year, $25.7 million Esperance Clean up and Recovery Project (ECRP) has managed to clean 1775 homes and buildings in the town following lead incident.

The initiative was originally launched in 2008 after a parliamentary inquiry.

At the time the WA planning and infrastructure minister Alannah MacTiernan said “we acknowledged that the failings of a number of Government agencies had created the most regrettable situation and we acted quickly and effectively to remediate the health of the Esperance community and their environment, but there is still more to be done.

"Testing shows that six children, or 7.5 per cent of those who initially showed elevated blood lead levels, do not meet acceptable international levels of 5ug/dL or below, and we are working with the individual families to identify the source of lead in their blood and whether or not it orginates from the Magellan mine.

"Overall, 92.5 per cent of these children have recorded significant reductions in their blood lead levels. Despite a major cleaning operation, there are still problems with lead and nickel levels in some rainwater tanks, so we are conducting intensive research to identify the cause of this.

"We will not abandon our commitment to Esperance community with regard to cleaning up contamination and ensuring it cannot be repeated," she stated.

Following the inquiry the Esperance Port Authority was fined $525 000 after pleading guilty to the charges of lead pollution and emitting lead odour, and was at the time Australia's largest penalty for polluting.

It wasn't until 2010 that the remnants of the lead contamination no longer posed a risk to humans.

According to Buswell work finished in later March, and was followed by an independent audit by engineering firm GHD.

"The audit found that the procedures developed for the ECRP, the manner in which the ECRP team delivered the project and the community input have combined to allow a robust, technically justifiable and comprehensive clean-up and validation of the Esperance townsite," he said.

"GHD also conducted a separate audit report on the Esperance Port which concluded that the clean-up of lead at the port and the wide range of testing undertaken had also combined to achieve a thorough and comprehensive clean-up and validation of the port site."

An additional two year monitoring program, which began in later 2010 will continue until December this year.

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