LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 8 no 3, 2001, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The Journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Worst Case Lead Poisoning and
Tasmanian Government Inaction (continued)

By Elizabeth O'Brien, Manager, Lead Advisory Service Australia
Edited by Paul Spencer, activist and roving volunteer

Awaiting Relocation

In June 2000, the Burnie Service Centre, Housing Section, Tasmanian Dept of Health and Human Services told the Oates that the Dept would find the Oates family a new house. A three bedroom house was offered for the family of 7 but the family requested a 4 bedroom house close to special schooling for Adrian, and with sufficient space for pet birds, in a rural area with no neighbours. As of 28 October 2000, no other house had been found or offered to the family.

The Burnie Advocate published an article called "Putt slams 'inaction' on lead" which stated "Acting Health Minister, Fran Bladel said the [Oates] family was now being assisted out of their house. 'Arrangements have been made for the family to move into a Housing Tasmania house in Queenstown in the short term'."

On 30th June 2000, Warren Jones, Director of Environmental Management, Environment, Planning and Scientific Services [EP&SS] Division of DPIWE, responded to the letter that Paul West had written to Jim Lockley on 13 Jun 2000 (see above), and stated, in part:-

"At present a formal Contaminated Sites Registry does not exist in Tasmania. When this register is created it will contain all properties where an environment protection notice (EPN) has been issued for the assessment or remediation of contamination under section 44 of the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act [EMPCA] 1994. Currently there are no properties in the West Coast Council that have EPNs issued for lead contamination.

"It is understood that the West Coast Council is currently exhibiting a new planning scheme. In this respect, EP&SS recommend that the scheme include standards dealing with the conversion of potentially contaminated sites (e.g. tailings dumps, service station sites etc) to a sensitive use. A schedule for potentially contaminated land that is applicable for planning schemes based on the Model Framework for Planning Schemes has been created by this Division. A copy of this schedule is attached. For further information please contact Jason Miller.

Unfortunately, this letter was not filed by Paul West in the lead file at Council and he did not bring this response to the attention of the Council.

On 1st October 2000, The LEAD Group wrote to the Tasmanian Health Minister requesting copies of the Menzies Centre study and summary as well as the education package specifically tailored to the Queenstown community.

A series of recommendations from the Lead Advisory Service was included as an attachment, including:-

  • redouble efforts to find the Oates family a lead safe house near to special schooling and speech therapy now needed by Adrian;

  • buy the family a HEPA vac and organise (as a minimum) Elite Maintenance Service to clean their carpets,

  • do follow-up blood testing of all the children with notifiable blood lead levels discovered through the Menzies Centre study and test their siblings as well, etc.

On 5th October 2000, Adrian Oates, 6 years old, was expelled from school for one week because he was throwing chairs and threatened to kill someone at school. According to Denise Oates, during the week-long expulsion, Adrian was chasing after his little brother one afternoon outside the school grounds and he had taken on a dozen high school students after he was taunted by them and kicked in the backside by one of the boys. Denise says that the school never tells her how problems start and they say she should go to the police to complain about bullying at school.

Adrian was again sent home from school for uncontrollable behaviour when he returned to school after his one week expulsion. On one occasion at around this time, Adrian slapped one of his teachers in the face. The school acknowledges that Adrian needs special schooling but the closest special school is 200 km away.

At home, Adrian slashed all the kitchen chairs with a knife and broke two windows. His speech is difficult for people to understand yet there is no speech pathologist in the area. The following day, Mike Plaister again told Denise Oates that no house had been found for the Oates family.

Peg Putt, Tasmanian Greens MHA, distributed a media release entitled "INACTION ON LEAD CONTAMINATION CONDEMNED - Urgent Need to Re-locate Affected Family [the Oates family]". The release states [in part]:-

"The protestations and careful use of statistics to gloss over the lead poisoning outbreak in Queenstown amount to a virtual cover-up by government."

The media release also called on the Tasmanian government to "investigate lead sources in the affected community [Queenstown]", or, in other words, to follow the National Health and Medical Research Council's guidelines since Queenstown had 6% of 1-4 year old children above the individual intervention blood lead level.

On the 17th October 2000, Mrs Jackson, Tasmanian Health Minister, stated in Parliament that: "Mr and Mrs Oates say they are not eligible for public housing because of their high income level but I recall we have agreed that we will purchase their home because it is a property that will be difficult to sell… there was a large amount of lead in the carpets of that house. I am not an expert, so I am not sure why that was the case - " Ms Putt answered: "Because the whole site where the house is, was contaminated and they walk in and out the door." Mrs Jackson continued: "- but they were given some information about how to clean those carpets; that was not followed and therefore that problem has persisted in that particular house." Ms Putt responded: "She vacuums three times a day - talk to her."

According to Denise, Mike Plaister of Housing Tasmania told her that they were not eligible for public housing, rather than the other way around. She also asks "how can Mrs Jackson say that I was given information on how to clean the carpets that was not followed? I can prove that I borrowed the steam cleaner but can Mrs Jackson prove that I was given the right advice and did Dr Bicevskis [of Public Health] come and test whether his predicted fall in carpet dust lead level has occurred? No - he did not."

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