Costly reticence

Individuals and companies in western Australia could soon be asked to cough up US $0.25 million and US $1.25 million, respectively, for concealing or not reporting the discovery of contaminated sites. The state's legislative assembly has decided to debate such stringent laws following the discovery of 30 dumped cement-filled drums in Brookdale. Western Australian environment minister Judy Edwards said, "The importance of the new law is that it will inform people about the contaminated sites.'

Meanwhile, according to the department of environmental protection's (dep) pollution response unit manager Ken Raine, investigations are on to locate the owner of the land where the drums were found. Authorities believe that the drums could contain hazardous material.

Raine said that preliminary tests showed the drums did not contain radioactive material. But he was concerned that members of a Brookdale community group, who took samples from the drums before the department was informed, were under threat of contamination as they did not have adequate safety equipment.