‘Forgotten town’ wants asbestos wasteland gone


‘Forgotten town’ wants asbestos wasteland gone
By Vassil Malandris

Updated 13 minutes ago
Video: The town where asbestos lies around for decades (7.30)
Map: Terowie 5421

For decades an asbestos wasteland has stretched across a South Australian town, yet the body responsible for cleaning it up is in no hurry to press the panic button, leaving locals despairing for their health.

The asbestos in the township of Terowie, 220 kilometres north of Adelaide, is not an illegal dump.

It is the property of the South Australian Government and yet there is no fence, no warning signs and no hurry to clean it up despite fears it could be blowing particles straight into a nearby playground and school.

Dave Perron came across the dump two years ago when he moved to Terowie.

“I walked down to the southern rail yards and saw just the massive asbestos down there,” he said.

“It blew me away that it had been there for so long and nobody had bothered to clean it up.

“The ground is just covered with broken up fragments of asbestos. It extends for well over 200 metres from the bottom of the southern platform to up at the cemetery.”

Mr Perron says the overall extent of the contamination stretches for up to three kilometres.

Forty-year-old roof sheeting and broken pieces now line a popular walking trail belonging to a camping site.

People have been complaining about this for years and the State Government has just forgotten us. Terowie is a forgotten town.
Dave Perron

Residents like Mr Perron fear many pieces are so small and indiscernible, someone could easily walk on the asbestos and not realise the risk.

“I have young grandchildren who want to come over here and explore the buildings, the old train station and the old train line,” he said.

“To do that they have to walk on this asbestos. I won’t allow them here because I don’t want my grandchildren in 30 years time to be diagnosed with mesothelioma.”

Locals say Terowie has become a forgotten town.

It was once a bustling railway stop and important staging camp for allied forces during World War II.

Its most famous visitor, General Douglas MacArthur, came to Terowie in 1942 and declared “I shall return”.

He never did.

Terowie’s decline was sealed in the early 1970s when the train station was abandoned and dismantled leaving behind the asbestos wreckage.

Mr Perron says locals have long been concerned about the threat.

“People have been complaining about this for years and the State Government has just forgotten us. Terowie is a forgotten town,” he said.
Poisoned water

We’ve got the right to have water, we’ve got the right to breathe air that’s healthy and our kids to play without being sick.
Terowie resident Donna

Terowie’s contamination concerns are not limited to asbestos.

Local MP Dan van Holst Pellekaan says the town’s water supply has high levels of lead and e-coli.

“Towns on the Barrier Highway from Terowie to Cockburn receive water from SA Water that is way, way below the quality that anybody else in the state would expect,” he said.

“In many cases you can’t drink it. We’ve actually uncovered cases where people have been told they can drink it if they boil it but it has unacceptable levels of lead in it.”

The water, which is pumped from a nearby dam through asbestos pipes, is four times more expensive than Adelaide’s supply but deemed unfit for human consumption, with tests often showing high levels of e-coli.

But not everyone is turning their back on Terowie.

Geoff Maul suffers from asbestosis after 27 years of exposure to the deadly dust.

He now spends much of his retirement fighting to clean up sites like the one in Terowie.

“I’ve never seen nothing like it. It’s totally disgraceful,” he said.

Residents say they have received assurances in the past from authorities that the asbestos pieces are safe and non-friable, which means they cannot be broken up or crumbled.

But at a town meeting, Mr Maul felt compelled to deliver a different message to locals.

“It’s sweeping it off, it’s vibrating like sand paper and it’s putting those asbestos fibres into the atmosphere that is coming over your town,” he said.

The Environment Protection Authority and SA Environment Department issued statements telling 7.30 they are meeting later in the week but will not commit to a time frame for the clean-up.

It appears a 40-year-old problem is not going away any time soon.

For some, like local Donna, it is too much to cope with.

“It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it’s the water or the asbestos anything, they don’t care about Terowie,” she said.

“We’ve got the right to have water, we’ve got the right to breathe air that’s healthy and our kids to play without being sick.”

Topics: asbestos, health, states-and-territories, community-and-society, terowie-5421, sa, renmark-5341, port-pirie-5540

First posted Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:38pm AEDT
Search ABC News
ABC Health & Wellbeing

Are diet soft drinks a healthy choice?
New dietary guidelines all about balance
Travelling for treatment: breast cancer in regional Australia

Featured Video

Video Tropical Cyclone Rusty upgraded to category 4 Cyclone Rusty has been upgraded to a category four system as it hovers 130 kilometres north-north-east of Port Hedland.
Video Gympie counts the cost as businesses flood again Melinda Howells reports from Gympie where the flood clean-up has begun.
Video NOLb_GunsMillar_2602 A mother whose son was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre speaks of the pain and her hopes for a semi-automatic weapon ban.
Video US General on defence presence in the Pacific Commander of the United States’ Pacific Air Forces, General Herbert J Carlisle, joins ABC News Breakfast.

Subscribe to ABC NewsMail
Join us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Got a news tip?

If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC.

One thought on “‘Forgotten town’ wants asbestos wasteland gone

  1. Neville

    26 February, 2013

    In earlier days to travel to Perth it was naecessary to travel by mail train to Parkes, where you transferred to
    the Silver City Comet at 8 am to Broken Hill. At Broken Hill
    you transferreg again onto the Silverton Tramways to Peterborough and another transfer to the Transcontinental
    for Perth. Terowrie was the home for rail staff for the
    Silverton Tramways, which was closed down when the Indian
    Pacific rail line was opened.

    I remember driving through Terowrie some years back and noted Banks, Hotels and shops boarded up. The only living
    creature seen was one dog. It is truly a forgotten town,
    a victim of progress.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.