24 April 2018

Half of St John's Island closed after asbestos found

Half of St. John's Island was closed on 17 Apr 2018, a day after samples taken from the campsite, lagoon and holiday bungalow area tested positive for asbestos said the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).
More than half the island will be closed.
From Channel NewsAsia.
I've seen construction debris dumped on St John's and Lazarus Island, squashed into crevices in the natural cliffs. "Going forward, how will the authorities ensure future proper disposal of general trash and industrial and construction waste?" is the quote I shared with the Straits Times.

How did the asbestos get there?

According to media reports:
SLA chief executive Tan Boon Khai said it had yet to determine the source of the debris which tested positive for asbestos.

"It could have been there for some time, but we are investigating the matter," he said.

The authority, which took over the management of the island from the Sentosa Development Corp in March last year, had been carrying out maintenance and upgrading works to enhance the existing facilities.

It was during the works that SLA's contractors discovered the debris, and extracted samples around the campsite, lagoon and holiday bungalow area for further asbestos testing on Mar 19.

Last Monday, the asbestos surveyor appointed by SLA confirmed the presence of asbestos in the samples. It was not detected on the rest of the island
These are photos of the debris seen shared in media reports.
From Channel NewsAsia.
From Channel NewsAsia

Has this been seen before?

I've seen construction debris dumped before. Like these buckets and other construction trash dumped in a crevice at St John's natural cliffs seen on 2 Jun 2007.
Stashing litter in our natural cliffs
And this fencing stuffed into natural cliffs on Lazarus on 28 Jun 2009
Fencing stuffed into natural cliffs

I've also seen swept up leaves being dumped in the tiny mangroves there. And rubbish burnt in the mangroves, killing mangrove trees. More in this blog post.
Burning site within the mangroves
Rubbish being burned in the mangroves killing trees.
Seen on 9 Aug 2009.

What kind of trash management is practiced on the island? Going forward, how will the authorities ensure future proper disposal of general trash and industrial and construction waste? These are my questions.

Is asbestos dangerous to people?

From this website, it appears the main risk is due to inhalation of asbestos.

According to media reports:
Regarding the two residents who grew up and live on St John’s Island, Mr Tan said they were in good health and have moved to the mainland after being informed of the asbestos. SLA said it will continue to follow up with the two residents, and they will be allowed to return to their homes when the cordoned area is deemed safe.
Besides humans, there are also lots of cats on the island. I wonder how they will cope?
IMG_5135
Sandy is the most famous cat on the island.
But there are many others.

What is being done about the asbestos?

According to media reports:
Works to remove the debris will start 27 Apr 2018 and will be completed by the end of the year. SLA aims to reopen the campsite by mid-2019.


How does it affect activities on the island?

According to media reports:
The regular scheduled ferry timings to St John’s Island will continue to be available throughout the removal works. Visitors will still be able to cross the linkway which connects St John’s Island to Lazarus Island.

According to the NParks website: As the access route to Marine Park Outreach and Education Centre and St John’s Island Trail is affected by SLA’s maintenance and repair works, the Marine Park Outreach and Education Centre and St John’s Island Trail are closed until further notice.
Marine Park Visitor Centre at St John's Island National Marine Laboratory

Update: Kusu shores closed after asbestos found, 5 May 2018.

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