Ash test project explained

A community meeting held in Morwell yesterday to explain a project to test ash left in roof cavities in the wake of the Hazelwood mine fire has been welcomed by residents.

About 40 people attended the session at the Italian Australian Club, which aimed to explain how the ‘Ash residue in Morwell roof cavities’ project will be conducted and answer questions.

Senversa senior associate environmental scientist Victoria Lazenby, whose organisation has been contracted by the State Government to conduct the project, said the session had been “really valuable”.

As part of the project 50 houses will be tested to see if brown coal ash exists and if it will pose a risk to human health.

“Today’s forum has really focused on the early stages of the project, how we’ll identify houses and how we’re going to be selecting them out of the people who have volunteered to participate,” Ms Lazenby said.

She said the meeting had also discussed what the process would be for collecting samples once houses were selected and what would be sampled.

A further 10 roof cavities in another area of Gippsland which was not affected by the mine fire will also be tested in order to compare the results.

Ms Lazenby said the meeting had allowed her to tap into local knowledge about the issue.

“I’ve learnt a lot from the local community and it will help us to plan our work better by getting that on-the-ground information about what people have seen and observed,” she said.

Morwell Neighbourhood House co-ordinator Tracie Lund described the forum as “very, very positive”.

“There was some fantastic questions asked by the community today,” Ms Lund said.

“I think that’s indicative of the community’s resolve to be involved and be informed.”

She said the government’s efforts to keep the community involved reflected a new approach to dealing with the community after the mine fire.

“Certainly, pre mine fire and during the mine fire what we were seeing was the relevant government stakeholders dictated to the community,” Ms Lund said.

“Now we’re almost seeing a reverse of that.”

Morwell resident Mike Kitwood, whose home is located near the Hazelwood mine, said the meeting was “very relevant”.

“Hopefully there will be something coming out of it that will help the community,” Mr Kitwood said.