December 5, 2019
Local Government NSW has recognised Bega Valley Shire Council for the way it managed the clean-up of the Reedy Swamp, Vimy Ridge and Tathra fire.
They announced Council had won the Asbestos Management Award at their annual Excellence in Environment Awards in Sydney on Tuesday this week. The Council also won the Behaviour Change in Waste for the introduction of the FOGO (Food Organics Garden Organics) bin collection service.
The Reedy Swamp, Vimy Ridge and Tathra fire destroyed around 70 homes and damaged a lot more, generating around 19,000 tonnes of waste. This included more than 8,000 tonnes of asbestos.
Bega Valley Shire Mayor Cr Kristy McBain said the award recognised the scale and impact of the devastating fires, and Council’s swift and robust approach in responding.
“It takes a long time for a community to recover from fire but in the short-term, managing waste was one of the many practical steps we needed to take quickly. We had to ensure we disposed of all materials in the best possible manner,” she said.
“At Council we are very proud of the team’s efforts at this very traumatic time for the community. They needed to be efficient and sensitive while managing all the complex regulatory requirements,” Cr McBain said.
Bega Valley Shire Council waste management coordinator Joley Vidau said the biggest challenge was the speed at which teams needed to act.
“Council's existing plans for disaster recovery addressed waste management issues at high level, but we needed to develop a detailed, practical plan in a very short timeframe. Asbestos added a layer of complexity, with friable asbestos providing a risk to passers by and people cleaning up.”
Air monitoring equipment was installed in Tathra to detect airborne asbestos particles, and stabilisation of asbestos-affected properties was achieved by spraying a stabilisation product.
“Communication was essential with all parties as we needed to make sure we met regulatory requirements and engaged the required specialist contractors, while keeping both the fire-affected and broader communities informed,” Ms Vidau said.
Bega Valley Shire Council was among 16 category winners at this year’s Local Government NSW awards which recognise outstanding achievements by local government in managing and protecting the environment.
Photo: In April 2018, then Recovery Coordinator, Euan Ferguson and Council's then Waste and Recycling Manager,Toby Browne inspect an air monitoring device installed at the Eden Waste Depot to ensure the safety of the public.