Coode Island time bomb still ticking

Issue 

Coode Island time bomb still ticking

By Rob Miller

MELBOURNE — Greenpeace and the Hazardous Materials Action Group (HAZMAG) highlighted the third anniversary of the Coode Island fires on August 22 by releasing a leaked government risk assessment which reveals that Coode Island is still unsafe.

The study, carried out by international consultants for the Occupational Health and Safety Authority of Victoria, found that further risk reduction measures were required and that there were significant risks for workers on the site and at other workplaces nearby.

HAZMAG spokesperson Paul Adams suggested that the report was commissioned by the state government to legitimate its inaction on closing Coode Island. Adams said, "The attempt by minister for industry services Roger Prescott to legitimate government inaction on Coode Island's closure by commissioning yet another study , has backfired. Coode Island is unsafe, and it should be closed."

This report comes in the wake of an ICI Australia engineering report leaked to the state opposition and tabled in parliament, which found that Coode Island wharf did not meet safety standards. A coronial inquiry has found that Terminals Ltd contributed to the 1991 fires and that the facility had a number of clear design faults which facilitated the spread of the fires.

Greenpeace toxics campaigner Matt Ruchel called on Prescott to reveal the government's plans for Coode Island and the management of hazardous materials and environmental protection in Victoria.

"The minister seems to be going to extraordinary lengths to sidetrack the relocation of Coode Island and make people believe that the chemical industry is safe. It's time for the government to come clean on its agenda for Coode Island and its plans to reduce safety and environmental regulation in Victoria. The community have a right to know the risks they face from industry. The Kennett government, on the other hand, seems to be systematically gutting environmental and safety controls on the chemical industry", Ruchel said.

Greenpeace and HAZMAG intend to maintain pressure on the government over the continued operation of Coode Island, the restructuring of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority and the special "self-regulation" licences which have been proposed for chemical companies in the Altona Petrochemical Complex.