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Esperence Lead Contamination

Graham Marshall - Sunday, July 22, 2012

The clean-up  of one of Western Australia's worst environmental disasters, involving lead contamination in the town of Esperence is due to be completed in July 2012.

It has taken more than five years since the problems were first identified following the deaths of thousands of birds and the discovery of elevated lead levels in local children.

It was found that lead dust was escaping at the Esperence Port during ship-loading and during transportation from a Wiluna mine by train to the town.
Water tanks across Esperence were discovered to have lead levels exceeding the standard for safe drinking water.

Since establishing a clean-up program in 2008, the Government of WA has spent AUD $25 million testing properties in the town for lead contamination.

Lead mining company Magellan Metals has also contributed AUD $9 million towards the clean-up and $1 million to establish a community fund. The WA Minister for Transport (Troy Buswell) said the clean-up had cost $5.8 million more than expected.

Of the tested properties, 1,775 homes and commercial premises needed to be de-contaminated.

The WA Department of Health carried out a blood lead survey and identified 33 people, including many children with blood lead levels in excess of the internationally recognized health guideline of 10 micrograms per decilitre.

Blood lead levels in affected children have since reduced to below 5ug/dL, according to a government website.

An audit will now be carried out by an independent environmental consultant to ensure no lead contamination remains in the town.

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