Wittenoom was a little mining city located 1400 km northeast of Perth. At one time, this was the only area in Australia where blue asbestos has been produced.
The existence of blue asbestos was first recorded in 1917 by the Mines Department. Located in the Hamersley Ranges, Wittenoom Gorge on the Mulga Downs land was detected by Langley Hancock in the early 30s.
In 1944, dust issues in Wittenoom were reported by Inspector Adams. He discussed the requirement to reduces the dust levels in the mine. Along with this, the Assistant State Mining Engineer reported that the dust generated in Wittenoom was dangerous. It was only in 1946 that the first instance of asbestosis happened. However, asbestosis wasn't conclusively diagnosed until several decades after.
The mining operation closed down in 1966 as health concerns over the hazards of asbestos began to emerge, and also the requirement for asbestos started to decline.
It took another ten years until health authorities realised that the blue asbestos dust that had drifted through the city was poisonous to the residents' health.
Additionally, it was another three years before the WA government announced Wittenoom as a polluted area.
In the peak of production, the population in Wittenoom was roughly 20,000.
The population consisted of 7,000 mine and mill workers and 13,000 family members and employees who worked int he city.
Blue asbestos was used in the creation of some products, such as ceiling insulation, pipes, fire resistant spray coating, and concrete.
Red asbestos is a hundred times more dangerous than white asbestos due to the small size of these fibers.
Wittenoom's sporting fields, streets, car parks, and playgrounds were constructed using mine tailings from the region.
More than 150,000 tons of blue asbestos was extracted in Wittenoom while the mine was in operation.
So much more than 2,000 residents and employees have died because of asbestos-related deaths. Dozens more have sought legal action against the mining company that has been set by Lang Hancock and then purchased by CSR.
Following the mine was shut, many residents left the area. But a small number of residents remained in the town.
The authorities began trickling down action in Wittenoom in 1978. The phase down coverage was the most appropriate course of action that the government could take due to the widespread crocidolite contamination from the town.
The policy requested that the residents willingly relocate out of the Wittenoom region. The government bought homes, businesses, and properties in the area and contributed to the relocation expenses of their residents. Many Regional residents, Together with the Shire of Ashburton, opposed the closing of Wittenoom. They lobbied to have the city cleaned up and used as a tourist attraction.
Nowadays, when people even suspect asbestos is at there house they call a contractor that's licensed to complete asbestos removal in Australia to come in and evaluate the occupation and remove the asbestos safely.
In 2007, the authorities cut off the electricity and the email service into the town.
Wittenoom is no longer a part of the Shire of Ashburton; however, there are still three taxpayers who pay rates.
The former town of Wittenoon is now a 470 square kilometre pollution zone.
One of the highest contamination risk areas is the Wittenoom Gorge. The mouth of the gorge is more than one kilometre wide.
A range of feasibility research on cleaning up the region has been completed over the previous ten years. Additionally, a new study will occur next month.
The Department of Lands noted that contractors would travel to the Wittenoom in June to perform some test pits to determine how to handle the contamination in the region.
Three risky regions are identified. Geotechnical work will be done to see if they're suitable to assist secure tailing from the Wittenoom Gorge.
Aside from the health risks involved with the region, the government is confronting the task of affording the cost of completing the cleanup efforts.