Menshed ‘down in dumps’ on site wait

Zoe KeenanGeraldton Guardian

Members of the Menshed Geraldton said they were “down in the dumps” and unsure of the group’s future after the promised lease for the old Geraldton fire station had been delayed by a year and the station was listed as one of 162 sites in WA with potential chemical contamination.

The old fire station in Durlacher Street has been vacant since soon after the opening of Geraldton’s new fire station on North West Coastal Highway, Wonthella, in April 2016.

In January last year, then lands minister Terry Redman gave permission to the City of Greater Geraldton for the State-owned asset to be used by Menshed Geraldton.

However, the Durlacher Street building is now among 20 sites being investigated to determine the level of contamination and if it poses any danger to the environment and community.

Meanwhile, Menshed Geraldton continue to occupy a temporary shop space in the West End of the CBD.

According to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services the contamination comes from the chemicals perfluorooctane sulphonate and perfluorooctanoic acid, which were used in particular firefighting foams that were phased out in 2003, used to combat flammable oils and fuels.

Overall the chemicals have been used since the 1950s in various industries to create products that resist heat, oil and water — for example they were used in food packaging and camping gear, and used in the defence force, airports and more.

According to the Department of Health people can be exposed to the chemicals from the air, indoor dust, food, water and various consumer products but food is expected to be the primary source of exposure to these chemicals.

DFES acting executive director corporate services Richard Burnell said the issue of most concern was the chemicals wouldn’t easily break down in the environment.

“The chemicals can remain in the soil and groundwater for a long time and have the potential to build up in the food chain,” he said.

Preliminary site investigations have been under way at 20 sites around WA since late 2017, in-cluding the old Geraldton fire station.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation will determine from these reports whether the level of contamination is above health and environmental standards to determine whether the sites can be occupied or whether further investigation is needed.

According to DWER, investigations into the extent of contamination could take more than 12 months to complete, varying at different sites.

For the Menshed Geraldton this means after years without a permanent residence members have longer to wait to find out whether the old fire station is given the OK before they can occupy the space.

With their current location for sale, they are searching for more permanent residency to continue their support group for men working through mental health issues and feelings of isolation.

Menshed Geraldton chairman Richard Porter said the group understands the current State Government is still in support for them to receive the site.

“It would be ideal for us to have permanent residency by the end of the financial year, we would really appreciate that,” he said.

Former chairman Ross Barden said members were down in the dumps, unsure of the group’s future.

“Our current residency has been fantastic for us for nearly six years and we’re really thankful but it is up for sale so it’s always a worry when a buyer might come along,” he said.

“The market is picking up now, so if this place sells that’s the end of us.”

Member for Agricultural Region Laurie Graham said he was looking at whether the site could be released for Menshed purposes.

“I can understand the group’s heartache, so I’m trying to find out whether they can occupy the space while it’s being investigated,” he said.

“If they occupied the space they wouldn’t be using the soil so I want to know whether there’s anything stopping that from happening.”

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