Aradale con­tam­i­na­tion

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

Fresh un­cer­tainty sur­rounds the fu­ture of Ararat’s Aradale Men­tal Hos­pi­tal with lead con­tam­i­na­tion the lat­est is­sue threat­en­ing the his­toric site.

Mel­bourne Polytech­nic, which leases the state-owned site as part of its Ararat cam­pus, will close the her­itage-listed build­ings to min­imise risks to the pub­lic.

The con­tam­i­na­tion risk stems from lead residue in dust from de­te­ri­o­rat­ing paint in age­ing build­ings dat­ing back to the 1860s at the site.

The build­ings will re­main closed un­til the site un­der­goes a clean-up de­con­tam­i­na­tion pro­gram.

The clo­sure means tours of the site, pop­u­lar with visit­ing tourists and con­sid­ered by many in the tourism fra­ter­nity as a money spin­ner for the city, have also ceased.

Mel­bourne Polytech­nic, which does not use the con­tam­i­nated build­ings for reg­u­lar class­room

teach­ing, has con­firmed all other sec­tions of the cam­pus will re­main open.

Mel­bourne Polytech­nic chief ex­ec­u­tive Frances Cop­po­lillo said the lead con­tam­i­na­tion pre­sented a low risk to pub­lic health, but it was im­por­tant to close the build­ings to re­duce po­ten­tial risk.

“Fol­low­ing a re­view of the for­mer Aradale Men­tal Hos­pi­tal, Mel­bourne Polytech­nic has de­cided to close the build­ings to the pub­lic un­til clean-up works can be com­pleted,” she said.

“While the re­port from our con­tam­i­na­tion ex­perts has iden­ti­fied the pres­ence of the lead rep­re­sents a very low risk to ca­sual vis­i­tors, the build­ings are be­ing closed to avoid po­ten­tial harm to peo­ple who visit the site more reg­u­larly and there­fore have a greater risk of ex­po­sure.

“Due to the ad­vanced age of the build­ings, much of the ex­ist­ing paint work, both in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally, is in poor con­di­tion.

“As a re­sult, there is a risk to peo­ple from pro­longed ex­po­sure to lead residue in dust within the build­ings.

“While re­cent vis­i­tors who might have at­tended tours or events in the build­ings are not con­sid­ered to be at risk, Mel­bourne Polytech­nic is ad­vis­ing the small group of peo­ple who ac­cess the build­ings twice or more each week to seek med­i­cal ad­vice.

“I stress that the over­all risk is still con­sid­ered low even for th­ese fre­quent users.

“Nev­er­the­less it is im­por­tant that they work with their doc­tor to de­ter­mine that there has been no ad­verse health im­pact from their po­ten­tial ex­po­sure.”

The Aradale hos­pi­tal, orig­i­nally Ararat Lu­natic Asy­lum, reached its 150th birth­day in 2017.

At its peak of op­er­a­tions in 1959 it housed about 900 pa­tients and was a ma­jor em­ployer in the ru­ral city with close to 500 staff mem­bers.

It closed in 1993 after a State Gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion to ‘de-in­sti­tu­tion­alise’ pa­tients in the men­tal-hos­pi­tal sys­tem.

It be­came a cam­pus of North­ern Mel­bourne In­sti­tute of TAFE in 2001 as a wine col­lege.

North­ern Mel­bourne In­sti­tute of TAFE changed its name to Mel­bourne Polytech­nic in 2014.

Much of the in­fra­struc­ture on site, which in­cludes about 60 build­ings, is made from stone and its pri­mary struc­tures are dom­i­nant fea­tures of the Ararat land­scape.

Ararat Ru­ral City Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Tim Har­ri­son said the coun­cil, which had no in­put into the de­ci­sion, un­der­stood the im­pact the clo­sure would have on busi­nesses with the ceas­ing of Aradale tours.

“The coun­cil will work with af­fected busi­ness own­ers if they need sup­port, but we hope a res­o­lu­tion to this is­sue can be found,” he said.

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