05:47 pm, Monday 19 April, 2010
The Northern Territory Government has announced an inquiry on Friday after a video showing chemical sludge in Darwin’s port became public.
A video by ABC had shown big black plume in the water and sludge on the wharf.
There is a concern that the copper concentrate coming from the port may wash into the city’s harbour. Darwin’s port has an open-sided conveyor belt, and when the concentrate is transferred to a ship, it is possible that some of it will spill onto the wharf.
It is a serious issue, according to Dr Stuart Blanch of the Environment Centre.
“Copper concentrate is a cocktail of nasty chemicals,” he said.
“Copper, arsenic, silica, uranium: all of them have impacts on human health and the environment.
Glen Williams, a Maritime Union of Australia organiser , said they have been asking for the conveyor belt to be covered for 18 months.
“The level of containment down there of the product is clearly not adequate,” he said.
“We have been calling for some time to have the loader fully enclosed to reduce – not completely – but I’m sure that you would reduce spillage and the dust being blown all over the wharf, if we had a fully contained and concealed conveyor system.”
Mr Williams said its members have also raised concerns over manganese and iron ore.
“It’s not only the copper concentrate that is the issue – you have got iron ore and manganese being trucked down from the stockpile area,” he said.
“While copper concentrate is the nastiest product down there, I don’t think it would be very good for your health working around that wharf area with iron ore dust blowing around and you are breathing that in.”
The Port Corporation said it will cooperate with Government authorities in the investigations, and has already made steps to address some of the issues.
The Country Liberals’ Peter Styles has called out WorkSafe to ask serious questions about the port’s safety procedures.
“What procedures were put in place in relation to this particular product being moved from train to storage and into ships?” he said.
“Those particular standard operating procedures should be investigated to ensure that the people who work in that environment are protected and not exposed to some of the carcinogenics that are involved in this particular copper concentrate.”
Julia Alder - Do you have an OHS News Story -
Let us know