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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Unsafe levels

Bottled water supplied.

BARBARA SUNGAILA May 28, 2014 2:50pm

Nitika Delmo, 5, with her big sister Dakota, 7. The two girls live in Costerfield with their family and recently recorded high antimony levels.


Costerfield father Scott Delmo would rather take his children out of the area than wait to find out whether the neighbouring Mandalay Resources mine is contributing to raised levels of metal antimony in his daughters.
 
Mr Delmo’s two daughters Nitika, 5, and Dakota, 7, have tested far above accepted safe levels for the element which many believe could come from dust at the mine site.
 
He said the concern had affected his family to the point where they wanted to leave their home in search of emergency accommodation until the issue was resolved.
 
‘‘It keeps us awake at night worrying.
 
I drive trucks for a living and I am drinking plenty of coffee just to keep me awake at work,’’ he said.
 
‘‘We are in search of emergency accommodation, whether it be at a caravan park or somewhere else.
 
With mortgage repayments, I simply can’t just take the family to a motel.
 
‘We try not to talk about it with our kids, taking them out of school will be a disruption, but their health is most important.’’
 
Mr Delmo, and others in Costerfield, are waiting to find out when air and water monitoring will start after tests found several people in the area had raised antimony levels.
 
He was scathing about the Victorian Government’s slow reaction to the potential hazards his family faced.
 
‘‘Everyone knows about it, but nothing’s being done,’’ he said.
 
‘‘They say they’re sending people out, but we haven’t seen anything,’’ he said.
 
A spokesperson for the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation said Government agencies were very aware of the community concerns about dust from the Costerfield mine and they were taking action to address those concerns.
 
‘‘DSDBI will engage a consultant this week to conduct independent testing of the contents of water tanks within 1.5km of the mine and report on any potential health risks,’’ he said.
 
‘‘The independent consultant will also carry out monitoring of air quality, which will measure the levels of particulates in the air.
 
‘‘DSDBI, the Department of Health and the Environment Protection Authority have been involved in developing the scope of the testing.
 
‘‘DSDBI, DoH and the EPA are determined to resolve this issue promptly and will keep the community informed.’’
 
A spokesperson for the DoH said on the basis of the test results they had seen to date, there was no immediate threat to health.
 
‘‘But we will be looking at results of testing by DSDBI and will provide advice on this,’’ he said.
 
‘‘People who have health concerns should take it up with their GP and follow any advice from DSDBI.’’
 
Last week The McIvor Times reported on accredited testing of rainwater tanks, dams and creeks undertaken by Costerfield farmer Neil Harris and environmental disaster management expert Andrew Helps.
 
Mr Helps said Mr Harris had initiated the sampling regime and paid for the lab testing.
 
‘‘In the first round of testing 24 drinking water tanks were tested and of these 14 were in excess of the drinking water guideline,’’ Mr Helps said.
 
‘‘The Department of Health is now claiming that these results were not ‘verifiable’ despite the testing being done by a National Association of Testing Authorities certified Laboratory.’’
 
‘‘The health department has not done any water tank testing in the Costerfield area despite being well advised about the large volumes of dust from the mine.
 
‘‘So the department does not have data on the antimony content in the rainwater tanks and has advised the minister in the absence of this data.’’
 
Meanwhile, many Costerfield residents are now relying on bottled drinking water supplied by the mine.
 
In a letter to residents, mine general manager Andre Booyzen wrote Mandalay Resources was working closely with the regulators and neighbours to investigate
complaints about the impact of dust from the mine’s processing plant.
 
‘‘Over the past few weeks we have increased measures to reduce any dust that could be generated by the mine,’’ he said.
 
‘‘This week, we sought advice from an independent air quality expert who is reviewing our dust monitoring program to see if it could be improved.
 
‘‘The Mines Department is commissioning independent testing in the area and we will support them in any way we can.
 
‘‘We know that there are a number of sources of antimony in this area —some of which is naturally occurring and some of which relates to historical mining in the area that goes back 150 years.
 
‘‘Wherever antimony comes from, we want to better understand the situation and ensure that the community is not affected by it.’’
 
The official responses to the issue have not reassured Mr Delmo, who is particularly worried about the effects of antimony on his children.
 
‘‘The health department has told me to drink fresh water to flush the antimony out of my system,’’ he said.
 
‘‘But we’re all breathing in the dust.
 
‘‘We’re living in a toxic dump.’’
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