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Free health checks for Port Augusta residents

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The South Australian government will provide health checks to the people of Port Augusta as ash from a closed power station swirls over the city.

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Manufacturing Minister Kyam Maher says the government will foot the bill for the checks for now but he has asked Flinders Power, which closed the coal-fired Northern Power Station last May, to pay them back.

“We will pay for them out of State Government resources and we will continue those discussions with Flinders Power and ask them to reimburse us,” he told ABC radio today.

“It’s our view that they are responsible for the remediation of the site, including that ash pond.”

A government spokesperson told InDaily that the Northern and Playford power stations and underlying land was leased to Flinders Power for a term of 100 years. The nearby ash dam – the source of the dust cloud – is located on land owned by Flinders power.

“Flinders Power is responsible for the dismantling of the power stations and remediation of the entire site, including the ash dam,” the spokesperson said.

“When Flinders Power has completed the dismantling of the power stations and remediated the site, ownership of the underlying land is transferred to Flinders Power.”

Maher said Port Augusta residents will able to arrange an appointment with a health professional using a specific hotline, or see their own general practitioner for free.

But Opposition health spokesman Stephen Wade says local doctors are already under the pump and will not be able to cope with the influx of free checks.

“We can’t rely on GPs who are already overloaded to provide this vital service in a timely fashion,” he told ABC radio.

“People are experiencing adverse health effects now, they can’t wait until the end of February or March to get an appointment with their GP.”

Wade said the government should instead establish clinics in the area with public health physicians to administer the checks.

The by-product ash, stored at a dam at the closed power station site, has recently been whipped up into a cloud by wild weather and locals are fearing for their health and property.

The Environmental Protection Authority has said analysis of the ash showed it “contains minimal toxic metals and substances” but it said fine dust particles may cause health effects, irrespective of their make-up

– with AAP

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