Nightcliff Beach is a popular destination for tourists and locals of Australia’s Northern Territory. The sands are covered with shells, sea glass, and… asbestos.
Alison Edwards, who recently moved to Nightcliff noticed the presence of asbestos on the beach being picked up by the beaches’ unknowing visitors. Signage stating there is asbestos present is “pretty rusty and seemed like it had been around for a good few years-as had the pieces of asbestos.”
Asbestos in Australia
Asbestos was prominently used in Australia in houses built until 1990 and was officially banned in 2003. However, the damage has already been done. About a third of all homes in Australia contain asbestos. It is most often found in the gutters, rooves, walls, flooring, fencing, and concrete.
Where did the Asbestos on the Beach Come From?
Asbestos is believed to be present on the beach because of two major events over the past 75 years-the Japanese bombing during WWII in 1942 and Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
After the war ended, debris was dumped at Nightcliff, which at the time was a rural area. Military personnel dumped all sorts of debris right over the cliff and onto the shore. A clean-up was attempted between the 70s and 80s and everything from equipment, cars, live ammunition, and even bodies were found to have been disposed of there.
Cyclone Tracy was an even bigger cause of damage in the area and eventually led to hundreds of houses being destroyed near the northern coast beach suburbs. These houses were mainly built with fibro asbestos sheeting which ended up littering the area after the storm. Proper clean-up was not carried out and much of the debris was buried in council dumps instead of being disposed of properly.
Clean-up of Nightcliff
There is some confusion about who is responsible for the clean-up along the coast of the Northern Territory where Nightcliff is located. The Northern Territory Government is responsible for the marine environment up to the high tide line along city beaches; another agency, Darwin Council, is responsible for the cliffs and sand down to the high tide line. However, because of the large tidal range at Nightcliff, there is a patch of sand that falls into a grey zone that is making clean-up of the beach more difficult.
Darwin Council manager, Nik Kleine says that his staff are working through all affected areas daily in order report any asbestos currently popping up along the shores. Then it is reported to hygienists who eventually gather up the exposed asbestos.
Since it is unknown how much asbestos was dumped at Nightcliff, it impossible to estimate when the area will be entirely rid of it. In the meantime, beachcombers should be wary of what they are bringing home from the beach.