Australian news, and some related international items

Road workers recovered, mystery of 1980 toxic spill remains

[ on December 4, 1980] The first two police officers on the scene were senior constables Robert Deards and Terry Clifton, who remained there for 12 hours, handling two drums of radioactive material, and handling burst bags containing DDT.

Mystery illness recalls 1980 toxic spill, SMH, Ben Cubby, Nick Ralston, April 19, 2012 FIVE road workers have recovered after exposure to a mystery toxic chemical they unearthed while building a new section of the Pacific Highway near Port Macquarie. The workers were struck by nausea, vomiting and sore throats after excavations uncovered a patch of greyish clay that became streaked with orange after it was exposed to the air.

The site, between Herons Creek and Stills Road near the town of Laurieton, is notorious as the location of one of Australia’s most controversial spills of toxic chemicals and radioactive material. In 1980 a truck rolled over while carrying several tonnes of the insecticide DDT, two drums of radioactive material and some other chemicals. Some of the DDT was apparently buried on site. It sparked a chain of events that saw allegations of a ”massive cover-up” by a local doctor who claimed 13 people involved in the clean-up fell ill, and a parliamentary investigation.

Although the affected workers were exposed nearly three weeks ago and have since returned to work, the cause of the illness remains unknown and a 50-metre exclusion zone has been imposed around the construction site, NSW Roads and Maritime Services said. The Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, said there was no sign of radioactivity, though further tests would be undertaken.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority said initial tests for
chemicals had proved inconclusive, while experts from the Australian
Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation are travelling to
Laurieton to test for radioactivity…….
The contamination was caused on December 4, 1980, when truck driver
Larry Earle was taking his toxic cargo north from Sydney to Brisbane
on behalf of a company called Century Geophysical Corporation, which
was deregistered in 1999.
Two cars collided in front of Mr Earle’s truck, killing one of the
occupants, 23-year-old John Parsons of Grafton. Mr Earle swerved
sharply, and managed to avoid serious injury himself, but his vehicle
The first two police officers on the scene were senior constables
Robert Deards and Terry Clifton, who remained there for 12 hours,
handling two drums of radioactive material, and handling burst bags
containing DDT.
”When I went home that night my uniform, which was usually navy blue,
was white,” Mr Deards told the Herald.
”It was impregnated with bloody DDT powder. I had blood tests three
months after the accident and I was still nine times over the maximum
level of DDT in my system.”
Mr Clifton complained of being ill, of rapidly losing eight kilograms
in weight, and having difficulty sleeping. Mr Deards felt ill and two
months later started having fainting spells.
”It was a bloody terrible thing,” he said. ”In those days police
weren’t supplied with protective clothing. We had nothing in our
police cars, no gloves or masks, and at the end of the day no one gave
a rat’s arse if we were sick or not.”
NSW Health tested the eight police officers who had helped with the
clean-up, and found no evidence of radiation poisoning, the NSW Health
Commission chairman, Roderick McEwin, said.

April 19, 2012 - Posted by | history, New South Wales

1 Comment »

  1. I feel very bad for all the people involved in the accident, my father attended this accident he worked for the RTA at the time and got the call out for this accident since then he has passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 46, its very seems funny to me every person involved back in 1980 has either passed on or are very sick.


    Comment by Lisa Taylor | May 21, 2012 | Reply

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