Kimberley dad fears for health of students

Glenn Cordingley
Albert Wiggan is keeping his two boys Zirren, 6, and Cordyn, 10, away from school over asbestos fears. Picture: Albert Wiggan

A father continues to ban his two young children from attending their Kimberley school until the remediation of an asbestos-contaminated site nearby is declared safe.

It follows revelations in The Kimberley Echo two weeks ago that a ceiling in a building being dismantled containing the material had collapsed just 50m from Sacred Heart School in Beagle Bay during lunchbreak, creating a huge dust cloud above.

Worried parents kept their children away from school for days at a time, fearing they were at risk of being exposed to asbestos particles carried by the wind.

Mother Jacinta Monck did not send her children - aged 6 to 11 - back until the Department of Aboriginal Affairs contacted her to guarantee that 100 cubic metres of potentially contaminated soil surrounding the building would not be removed until the school holidays this week.

Ms Monck said she was satisfied with the outcome.

"The contractors worked after school and came in over the weekend to remove all the asbestos sheeting," she said. "The initial handling of this was disappointing.

"But we have got what we want - to postpone the removal of the sand until the school holidays.

"It concerns me that we had to put up such a fight before people listened.

"There was a consultation and communication breakdown from the DAA, parents and the school over this."

But Beagle Bay father-of-two Albert Wiggan was far from convinced there was no health risk.

He has kept his two children Zirren, 6, and Cordyn, 10, away from school for more than a fortnight and will not send them back until he is certain it is safe.

"I am still reluctant to send them back because I am not fully confident … I am not relying on the DAA's world's best practice advice," he said.

"Apparently everything is good from their point of view, but I don't trust their judgment, purely because I don't think anybody knows enough about asbestos in the first place to be making those sorts of judgments.

"We don't know whether or not they are telling the truth."

Mr Wiggan said he would consider sending his children back when all remediation work is complete.

"The contaminated soil surrounding the building still has to be taken away … they still have a long way to go from dealing with the health risk," he said.

"With the hot northerly winds here, the soil dries very quickly.

"I have not seen one sprinkler going off to keep the dust down (and) I have not seen a water tank being used to soak the soil.

"On the two occasions I have walked into the school, I was a victim of the dust being blown from that site into the school … I was suddenly in the same predicament that my children had been put in."

The DAA said work to the building was complete and confirmed the soil would be removed in the school holidays.