Council monitors asbestos risk during road repair

Snowy WS workers took special precautions to deal with the risk of asbestos when working on the Goobarragandra Road.

WHEN the raging Goobarragandra River ripped away great chunks of the road that runs along side the normally tranquil waterway, the last thing on anyone’s mind was asbestos.

For those who were tasked to repair the pummelled road, Snowy Works and Services, the risk of asbestos inhalation was a very real concern and an integral part of the plans to resurrect the road.

The problem for the engineering team in charge of redesigning and restoring the damaged Goobarragandra Road lay in the original gravel road that prior to the flood lay sealed under the road pavement.

Several years ago the Tumut Shire Council sealed the Goobarragandra Road in a successful bid to conceal asbestos fibres that were found to be present in the gravel road.

When originally laid, the gravel was thought to pose no safety risk until years later when the sie it originated from, the Argalong Quarry, was found to contain traces of tremolite asbestos.

Tremolite is one of the six officially recognised types of asbestos and has been linked to the  development of lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma later in life.

With the sealing of the road, the risk of absestos fibres blowing up as part of the daily car traffic dust was eliminated until March this year when the flood tore great chucks of the road along with the bank away, washing it downstream.

Tumut Shire Council Project Director for flood recovery work, Bede Spannagle, said precautions were taken to ensure the health and safety of the workers involved with the restoration process.

“Whenever we do work with the gravel road pavement we have a licensed asbestos hygienist who monitors the worksite and takes regular samples to ensure the staff are safe,” Mr Spannagle said. “When working on the exposed sections of road the men wear breathing masks and everyone else is excluded from the worksite.”

The inclusion of the additional measures have come with a financial burden for the project, but given the potential health risk, have been unavoidable.

Mr Spannagle explained as a responsible employer, the council has a social responsibility to ensure all issues are dealt with using the correct protocol.

“This sort of issue does become part of the flood recovery costs but we are not only required to take these extra measures by legislation, it is also the right thing for us to do,” Mr Spannagle said. “Kilometres of road have been washed away, some in parts and other areas the entire road. We are using safe, asbestos free gravel on the damaged sections  of road then sealing it.”

As for the numerous potholes that are continually appearing along the Goobarragandra Road due to areas of the road being undermined by water and now heavy, but necessary work vehicles, they are being regularly filled and are not posing any immediate health and safety risks.