News & Media

Portland Hazmat, Weekly Times update, recent bushfires

By: Euan Ferguson

  11.00 AM 27 February, 2012

Views: 5930

Portland Hazmat:
Our thanks to the wonderful effort by a significant number of CFA and other agency personnel in bringing the HAZMAT incident at the Koppers coal tar pitch facility at Portland to a close. Hundreds of CFA members were involved in a range of roles. The incident was an outstanding example of agencies working together in an integrated, collaborative and collegiate way.

Members from CFA, DSE, MFB, SES, VicPol, Ambulance Victoria, Depts of Health and Human Services, Dept of Transport, EPA, WorkSafe, Port of Portland, MAV, Glenelg Council, Grain Corp, Alcoa and the Port of Portland were among the key players. In the initial response, Portland Brigade members recognised the potential for a dangerous and long duration incident. The liquid pitch spill was cooled by water for six days and contaminated water was trucked to a waste facility. CFA operated a Level 3 Incident Management Team from the Portland Fire Station. Crews working close to the leak were required to wear breathing apparatus and a specialist unit and crew from Ballarat re-filled 780 cylinders. Crews filled over 4,000 sandbags which were placed around the leaking pitch to reduce the amount of environmental damage.

On a daily basis, there were 60 breathing apparatus operators, six hazmat specialists (including four from MFB), four paramedics and support staff of over 50 at the staging area, Operations Point and Incident Control Centre. This kept the spill down to 600 tonnes of pitch whilst a further 2,400 tonnes were pumped back onto the "Rathboyne" last Thursday. To monitor the air quality in the city, there were flame ionisation detectors, PpM and PpB detectors, and 14 Area Rae remote detectors. Thermal Imaging Cameras were used to check the heat and numerous Ph test kits were used to ensure water quality was maintained. Over 400,000 litres of water was removed for decontamination. During the incident regular community meetings and briefings of key industry members were held and a community newsletter established. This evening "Emma" posted this to the CFA Facebook page:

"Great to see all those from the CFA and all other services involved, doing such a fantastic job dealing with the chemical spill situation in Portland. Despite negative responses from some of the community it is appreciated by many, that the decisions which have been made, have been made in the best interests of the community and their health, safety and well being!! It is also great to see members from other towns come in and offer their assistance and expertise!! Top effort, keep up the great work!!" Last Friday the incident was handed back to the owner, the Port of Portland and the Glenelg Shire. My thanks to ALL who were involved. A great team effort and one that we are all very pleased with the outcome. JOB WELL DONE!

"Weekly Times" Updates:
As part of the on-going work to provide our members with up-to-date information, last week's Weekly Times newspaper features a half page update from CFA (page 10). This month's update features short articles about the continuing grassfire risk, the Independent Investigation at Fiskville, upcoming State Championships, new training initiatives as well as the anniversaries of the Ash Wednesday, 2009 bushfires and the 2011 Victorian floods. Look out for the updates on a regular basis.

Recent Bushfires:

The last few days has also seen a number of bushfires burning under very high or severe fire danger ratings. It is pleasing to see the emphasis on "hitting it hard and fast" and on getting information and warnings out to the public quickly. Many of our people have worked late nights and (for some) very early mornings to get fires under control quickly before the onset of worsening fire weather. The response and teamwork with agencies such as DSE, Parks Vic, VicPol and local government has been very professional and commendable. Thank you and well done!

Ash Wednesday Remembered:
Many CFA members paused on the 16th February to commemorate the 29th Anniversary of the tragic Ash Wednesday bushfires that claimed the lives of many Victorians and South Australians, including CFA members. We honour the memory of our fallen members.

 "Isn't it nice to think tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet."

- Lucy Maud Montgomer

Last Updated: 10 December 2015