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Andamooka Opal Hotel owners issued asbestos clean-up order after arson

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The owner of a burnt down historic hotel in the far north of South Australia has received a clean-up order due to environmental pollution.

Andamooka’s Opal Hotel was one of three buildings damaged by suspicious fires that broke out in the city between December 20 and the early hours of the next morning last year.

Two houses were also partially destroyed by fire.

The Opal Hotel was then being renovated by two leaseholders and had been closed for over nine years.

“A few people thought, ‘Well, this is an opportunity here with the Andamooka Opal hotel to get it back to working order,’ and unfortunately there was an arson attack,” said MP Giles Eddie Hughes .

The Environmental Protection Authority issued a cleanup order in July after numerous inspections found 300 tonnes of construction and demolition waste contained friable asbestos.

The friable state of the asbestos was the result of the fire, meaning it had been crumbled or transformed into a state that could be inhaled by humans.

The Andamooka Hotel on fire with flames and smoke coming from the roof with trees to the side
The Andamooka Opal Hotel was burned down in an arson attack.(Provided)

Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The requirements of the order mean that the site manager must erect, install and maintain physical barriers to prevent the community from entering.

It also calls for construction and demolition waste to be pulverized by a qualified contractor, and for this to continue every three months as long as any waste remains.

Air monitoring and signage should also be present on site.

Mr Hughes said he understood some of the requirements had not yet been met.

“It’s worrying, I was talking to someone today and they’ve had heavy rain…so the water has come through that particular site, so it’s giving out some of that material,” Mr Hughes said.

“There needs to be a full cleanup of the site.”

Hotel Andamooka
The newly refurbished Andamooka Opal Hotel was gutted in December last year.(Provided: Ben Beamont)

The refurbishment of the Opal Hotel was an attempt by residents to bring a pub to the town after the Tuckabox Hotel closed before the Covid pandemic.

What the police said

South African police deemed the fires suspicious in January and said the Opal Hotel had an estimated damage bill of $250,000.

In an update provided earlier this month, a spokesperson said while no crime was ever fully cleared, no further lines of investigation existed.

Anyone with information about the crimes has been urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Call for reform

Mr Hughes said in other areas councils would get involved but there was no legislative guidance for the local progress association to act and order the hotel to be cleaned opal.

“I think there needs to be legislative changes and resources and perhaps allowing the backcountry community as a priority to take a more proactive stance,” Mr Hughes said.

Hotel tenants declined to comment.

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