CFA mercury scare eased

Fire fighters involved in last week’s mercury scare can so far breathe a sigh of relief after further testing of equipment has shown negative results.

Teams from the Morwell and Traralgon fire brigades responded to a mercury spill in May, after which a sample of protective clothing returned with positive mercury contamination.

Four trucks from each station were immediately taken offline, an industrial hygienist brought in and affected members invited to undergo a medical screening.

Country Fire Authority southeast regional commander Bryan Russell said all four fire trucks from Traralgon and two from Morwell had returned to use as of yesterday afternoon.

The hygienist had completed all testing on Morwell equipment by Tuesday, with the results expected to arrive overnight.

“We will still be doing medical screenings with our fire fighters to make sure everyone is alright,” Mr Russell said.

“We’ll keep doing that.”

Although all re-tested protective clothing and equipment had so far returned a negative result, one swab from the Traralgon fire station drying room showed a low reading.

Mr Russell said the hygienist conducted further testing of that room to reassure the team all material and equipment was safe.

“Again, our firefighter safety has been our number one priority,” Mr Russell said.

“We have implemented some precautionary measures to ensure the wellbeing of our fire fighters and the community.

“The test results have come back and they have indicated no health concern – we will now put everything back in service.”

An internal review is still to be conducted by a CFA member outside of the Latrobe Valley.

Mr Russell said the review would not take long, but would consider if any procedural changes needed to be made.

United Firefighters Union national secretary Peter Marshall said the incident should never have occurred, but he was satisfied with the CFA’s response.

“I mean there is still more testing to be done, but so far the results have shown they are under the acceptable safe working standards,” Mr Marshall said.

“But we still want ongoing testing of the personnel just to make sure, because there may be a difference between the initial exposure and that in which we are seeing now.

“And given the nature of our industry, we need to make sure that everything is done that can be done to protect the fire fighters’ health.”

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