Councils take anti-lead protest to Parliament House

"The message of the meeting was very clearly ‘no lead through Fremantle’." City of Fremantle Mayor Peter Tagliaferri.

By Angela Dorizas

West Australian councils will take their protest to the steps of Parliament House tommorrow, the first sitting day for 2009.

Spearheaded by City of Fremantle Mayor Peter Tagliaferri, protestors will voice their concerns about the shipment of Magellan Metals lead through more than five local government areas and 22 suburbs.

“Keep in mind there are more than 20 schools along this route to Fremantle and thousands and thousands or people,” Tagliaferri told GovernmentNews.

“Lead contamination is a very real threat – rail carriages derail, containers are dropped. It would take just one accident for widespread contamination to occur and the damage to public health from that can’t be simply fixed.”

He said lead contamination could potentially result in illness and birth defects within surrounding communities.

“Lead is stored in bones and tissue such as the brain and accumulates but does not dissipate readily. Its impact is felt for generations,” he said.

Tagliaferri has accused the Barnett Government of breaking an election promise when it gave Magellan Metals the green light to export lead through Fremantle and surrounding communities.

He said State Government assurances of stringent safety precautions could not be trusted, adding that the sealed bags housing concentrated lead provided little protection during loading or in the incident of derailment.

In 2005, the town of Esperance suffered one of the worst environmental disasters in the State’s history. A lead leak during the loading of Magellan product at the Port Authority killed thousands of birds and elevated lead levels in local children.

Following the contamination, Magellan Metals was banned from exporting lead from the port, mine and processing plant. The cleanup is ongoing and an estimated 9000 tonnes of lead carbonate remains in the town.

There are fears within the community that the same disaster could occur in Fremantle.

“The disaster in Esperance in 2005 really clearly shows what happens when the cavalier attitude of a poor corporate citizen (in Magellan Metals) operates in tandem with a lax Government watchdog,” Tagliaferri said.

“The repercussions of the dreadful health and environmental devastation in Esperance will be felt for decades and as a council we want to protect the people of Fremantle from that.”

The City of Fremantle held public hearings over the weekend to give local residents the opportunity to voice their concerns. Presentations were also given by Federal Member for Fremantle Melissa Parkes and WA Opposition Leader Eric Ripper.

WA Premier Colin Barnett, Environment Minister Donna Faraghar and Transport Minister Simon O’Brien were all invited to the public hearings, but failed to attend. Magellan Metals also declined the offer to speak to community residents.

Tagliaferri said the message of the meeting was clearly “no lead through Fremantle”.

“The outcome was that finally the people of Fremantle were given a voice to make their objections to lead transport through the City heard,” he said.

“It is a voice we’ve previously been denied at any formal level. There were a number of very strong submissions received from people who are experts in their fields.”

Tagliaferri will hand deliver public submissions to the Premier and Leader of the Opposition on the steps of Parliament House tomorrow.

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