Scientists have started testing land in the Mid West town of Northampton, which is feared to be widely contaminated with toxic lead residue.
The State Government, which announced a year-long investigation of the historic mining town in April, is looking to get permission from Northampton’s 868 residents and landowners to take samples for testing.
Fears of lead contamination and its health effects have hung over Northampton since a potential link was first identified in 1979 and 181 children were tested for lead in their blood.
Department of Lands acting director general Mike Bradford said the scientists would also do a systematic search of the town, taking photographs and using handheld screening tools.
“Where possible land owners and residents will be interviewed in order to gain important anecdotal information,” he said. “Samples from each land parcel will be transported to the ChemCentre in Perth for analysis.”Lead tailings were stockpiled at the Northampton State Battery, a mining processing plant on the outskirts of the town, for 30 years.
Unaware of its toxicity, builders and residents freely used the leftover material, which contains about 3 per cent lead, in construction all over the town.
It was not until 2010 that the State Battery buildings were demolished and the lead tailings stockpile was safely sealed up.
A two-year-old Northampton boy, who was tested after his family’s pet dog became unwell, was diagnosed with lead poisoning in November 1999.
Allen Morris told The West Australian in April that government officials tested soil around his Northampton home in 2010 and found the lead content was 70 times over the safe limit.
Blood tests done on the 181 children in the late 1970s showed nine of them had more than double the acceptable level of lead and four children had three times the safe level.Northampton shire president Gordon Wilson said some locals had feared the lead contamination had caused deaths in the town and the council had held a meeting to inform residents about the strength of the contamination.