The Coode Island disaster: not forgotten

Cr Jorge Jorquera. (Supplied)

Councillor Jorge Jorquera

If you lived in the inner west at the time, you will never forget the day in August 1991 when the Coode Island disaster unfolded on our doorstep.

The Coode Island storage tank facility exploded, spreading a plume of toxic smoke across Melbourne for two days.

It was one of Melbourne’s biggest disasters.

About 8.5 million litres of organic compounds burned, creating a toxic cloud over nearby residential suburbs, which was only dispersed, fortunately, by strong winds.

The history of the Coode Island disaster has not been forgotten, not least because there continues to be storage of dangerous goods and chemicals near suburban populations in the inner west of Melbourne.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is currently considering a new licence application for the storage of dangerous goods in Coode Island, 1.6km away from Yarraville Village.

The proposed facility will store approximately 230 tanks containing foodstuffs, combustible liquids and dangerous goods.

The EPA will assess the licence application over the next few months, with a decision expected later this year.

It is critical that residents in the City of Maribyrnong take the time and review the information to make an informed assessment of the potential hazards involved in the proposal.

Air pollution can be caused by human-created factors–from dust storms, coal odour, wood heaters, heavy industry, to traffic emissions.

In the inner west, it is a combination of heavy industry (18 per cent of land is industrially zone) and 20,000 container trucks which travel through local streets every day.

Our inner west community also experiences serious adverse health effects of exposure to poor air quality, including higher rates of lung cancer, asthma attacks–particularly in children–and heart failure and disease. According to Environmental Justice Australia, Yarraville and Brooklyn rank seventh and eighth in Australia for air pollution concentrations.

Caring for our environment and our community in Maribyrnong is important for maintaining a city with a healthy, safe and liveable environment.

The starting point for solutions is for our community to be aware of the air pollution levels they are currently exposed to and have a better understanding of where it comes from.

Council’s Air Quality Improvement Plan is a good place to start–it provides a comprehensive action plan that address environmental concerns brought about by the poor air quality in our city and impact on the health of the Maribyrnong community–you can find a copy here:

Air quality and pollution monitoring and reporting should also be more accessible to the public–similar to weather reporting.

And, of course, real penalties should be imposed on the corporations that break regulations.

Our community deserves better and should not be treated like a toxic waste dump.