Cairns Asbestos Problems

30 years ago, CAIRNS iconic Esplanade was used as asbestos dumping ground. The harmful material has started spilling out onto the beach.

A former teacher of Cairns State High School has lifted the lid on the demolition of several school buildings which were later used as landfill near where Cairns hospital helipad is located. Over the last three decades, coastal erosion has caused asbestos to spill out as pictured on the right potentially exposed to the elements.

Russell Geisel (above) who taught at Cairns State High School from 1982-1995 said three World War II era buildings with asbestos roofs were torn down in the mid-80s.

Mr. Geisel said that the sheeting was broken up at the school then mixed in with the rest of the rubble before being dumped on the Esplanade. Four months ago, The Cairns Post revealed that white asbestos had spilled onto the shore opposite Cairns Hospital amid building material dumped about 30 years ago that has been used as landfill.

He said that one day during school hours, he and some few people saw piles of sheeting perfectly sitting there and suddenly someone in a backhoe went and smashed it all up so that they could throw it into the back of a truck.

Two weeks ago, Cairns Regional Council inspected the area but they could not identify any asbestos sheeting. The Cairns Post gathered samples of the material from the Esplanade beach to be tested by experts at SGS Australia and reviewed by Clear Asbestos Removal (clearasbestosremoval.com.au/melbourne).

The laboratory analysis confirmed the presence or chrysotile which is white asbestos. Chrysotile has been the most used asbestos in Australia. It comprises of more than 50% of all asbestos used.

Queensland Health says the asbestos fibers can be split by mechanical energy into progressively finer fibers of microscopic size.

Respirable fibers are responsible for adverse health effects caused by asbestos including lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. The Cairns Regional Council has said that asbestos remediation works are almost finished at the local Civic Theatre and it will reopen in three weeks.

After finding asbestos in the backstage area last month, the council closed the theatre. It relocated shows. Mayor Bob Manning said there had been extensive cleaning. However, he said it was fortunate that the asbestos contamination levels were very low.