Asbestos lifeline for Walcha bushfire victims

Walcha district residents impacted by last year’s bushfires will receive a helping hand from their Armidale region neighbours, with the Armidale Waste Management Facility set to receive asbestos and other fire related debris from damaged homes.

Asbestos waste is being collected from 11 homes damaged by the fires in Walcha Shire and the district’s waste facilities are not equipped to dispose of that material in line with health and environmental requirements.

“Walcha Council was in a difficult position trying to find a suitable and cost-viable destination for the asbestos waste,” Armidale Regional Council’s Mayor Simon Murray said.

“We’ve offered to accept it because the Armidale facility has the capacity to properly dispose of that amount of asbestos.”

Inspectors from the NSW Environmental Protection Authority, NSW Public Works and a bushfire recovery team visited the Armidale Waste Management Facility on Monday to confirm the site was suitable to take the waste.

The inspection confirmed vehicle access was sufficient to accommodate the trucks to be used by waste disposal contractors and that measures would be in place to bury the wrapped asbestos waste immediately.

“We saw a need to help a neighbouring Council in a very tricky situation and expect to start receiving the waste within the next six weeks,” Councillor Murray said.

Walcha Council Mayor Eric Noakes said Walcha Council is very appreciative of Armidale Regional Council’s offer to assist in the disposal of asbestos and other associated waste following the recent bushfires.

“This type of collaborative approach eases the burden placed on councils that do not have the facilities to assist in this part of the clean-up,” Councillor Noakes said.

It is the latest chapter in the Armidale region’s bushfire assistance for other northern NSW communities.

During last summer’s fires, the Armidale region supplied three and half million litres of water for aerial fire fighting efforts.

Over 1150 fixed wing firefighting sorties and hundreds of helicopter flights were supplied with water at Armidale Regional Airport between September and January, to control multiple blazes between the Queensland border and Taree.

“During challenging times, it can be important for regions to assist one another to minimise the impacts on our communities,” Cr Murray said.

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