The Town of Port Hedland has admitted smoke from last month’s landfill fire was not tested for hazardous fumes, despite claims the burning green waste pile was contaminated with plastics.
More than a year before the landfill fire, which occurred September 16, Wedgefield resident Pail Reibel sent a series of photos to the then chief executive and mayor showing large amounts of plastic and other materials in the green waste and pallet piles.
Mr Reibel said in his regular visits to the tip since the email, little had changed in the two piles.
“People working on projects will just go out there and dump whatever is in their truck, regardless of what pile their supposed to put it in,” he said.
“If all of that plastic was still in that mulch pile when it caught fire, I’d hate to think what we were all breathing in when the wind came around and blew towards South Hedland.”
According to a Fire and Emergency Services Authority spokeswoman, responsibility for smoke monitoring falls to local government in regional areas, but only if requested by firefighters.
“In this incident, FESA understands the potential hazard caused by burning plastics presented a minimal risk,” she said.
“However, as a precaution, FESA recommended that responding crews create a barrier to separate any potentially hazardous material from the burning material.”
Port Hedland acting chief executive Natalie Octoman said FESA did not request any smoke monitoring be undertaken.
She said there were specific procedures in place to ensure contaminated materials were segregated from the green waste and wood piles.
“When users enter the landfill, weighbridge staff ask whether the load is clean or contaminated; this determines the location of where the load is to be placed,” she said.
“If undisclosed contaminants are seen in the green waste or pallet pile, landfill staff remove them and place them in their appropriate locations.”
Ms Octoman said, following Mr Reibel’s emails in September 2011, discussion had begun on developing a master plan and the Town had applied for funding for a feasibility study into a new landfill site.