Rubble barney

ANDREW MARTINDALE is a retired medical scientist and former Australian army officer who has lived in East Fremantle for 21 years. He’s been actively involved in offshore swimming for the last 35 years and is angry at the lack of action to prevent rubble from polluting the once-pristine Port Beach.

THE City of Fremantle has effectively abandoned the badly-polluted Port Beach to the elements.

In the process it has chosen to ignore its concerned ratepayers, residents and the many users of this once pristine facility who have been dismayed at its ongoing degradation after nearly two decades of neglect, and who have been urging the city to clean up the pollution.

It appears that the city has instead decided that the beach can be sacrificed.

In March, council officers erected signs along Port Beach, warning beach users of the erosion which has exposed “rocks, rubble and remnant infrastructure”, and advising that, at these times, “swimming at an alternate beach is recommended”.

The signage further warns that “Material containing asbestos may be found on this beach”, and urges users to report the location of such material to the city so that it may be removed.

This pollution consists of old limestone boulders and rubble, and more recently-deposited (unweathered) limestone, granite boulders and granite rubble, house bricks (whole and/or broken and eroded), broken glass and broken chinaware, large and small lumps of asphalt road material, lumps of concrete and aggregated concrete, rusted steel and iron, timber and other building materials including the ominous asbestos material mentioned above.

These contaminants are reported to have originated from many sources, including:

• Dredging and deepening work at Fremantle Harbour which exposed old sea-bed contaminants and transferred them to nearby landfill and sea-wall construction.

• Rous Head dredging, sea wall construction and landfill using new and old limestone, granite and contaminated landfill originating from building demolition sites, including waste from the old wheat silos formerly located near Port Beach.

• Contaminated landfill used in 2003 to reinforce the Port Beach carpark sea wall and adjacent eroded beach areas.

Disastrous future

The council, port authority and state government have all been aware of this now-burgeoning environmental mess since 2001, with Hansard recording parliamentary debate over this issue in December that year.

Since then, concerned users of Port and adjacent beaches have been urging authorities to take action, noting that pollutants have been migrating north and that action should have been taken early to remove the material while it was still confined to piles near Rous Head.

I don’t think there’s been a serious attempt to remove contaminating material from the affected beaches.

Since 2001 there have been repeated appeals to the council and individual councillors, the port authority and the WA environment minister, all of whom have declined to accept responsibility and take action.

The minister has satisfied himself that the City of Fremantle is monitoring the situation, so his inaction has to be condemned in view of the mess that he has allowed the council to perpetuate.

It is now time for the city, which is the authority immediately responsible for the health of these beaches, to take action to save this valuable public asset from what will be a genuinely disastrous future, and from eventual closure.

The matter goes beyond avoidance of blame and litigation and the city is likely to be applauded by many if it finally acts.

It has the machinery and human resources to get onto the beaches at low tide on a daily basis to clear the rubble as it becomes exposed by waves and tide.

Such action would be infinitely better than no action at all.

The Mosman Park and Cottesloe councils may in future applaud the city of Fremantle if it took action to stop the northward spread of beach pollutants, avoiding the consequent and inevitable contamination of Mosman Reef and the eventual appearance of this mess on the iconic Cottesloe, North Cottesloe and Swanbourne Beachs and the adjacent reef structures.

What about some affirmative action?

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