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Scramble to fix Port Augusta ash cloud

AAP logoAAP 2/01/2017 Marnie Banger

Authorities are working to protect South Australia's Port Augusta from a plume of fly ash that has blown across the city from a closed coal-fired power station.

Environment Minister Ian Hunter says he has asked SA's Environmental Protection Authority to report back to him by the end of the week on how it can help control the by-product, which was whipped up by recent wild weather.

Port Augusta mayor Sam Johnson says the state government's response is coming too late, but Mr Hunter says responsibility for solving the problem lies first with Flinders Power, who operated the Northern Power Station.

The dam from which the ash is blowing had previously been capped by water pumped from the coal-fired power station before it closed last May.

Flinders Power says it applied a suppressant to the ash in November to prevent wind dispersing it, while it was preparing a more permanent response, but that extreme weather over the past week has damaged it.

The company says it is working with the EPA, which has been monitoring the issue, to restore the suppressant and then permanently rehabilitate the site.

Mr Johnson says a plan to deal with the issue is needed but the state government has taken too long to formulate one, as it has known the problem was coming since the power station's closure was announced in mid-2015.

He says the fly ash has led to a local child with asthma being taken to hospital for help breathing and an elderly resident relocating to Adelaide as a precaution over the past few days.

"The government have had well over 18 months to formulate a plan to actually manage this and they have failed to do so," the mayor told AAP on Tuesday.

"They have clearly failed and they have put 14,000 lives at risk."

Mr Hunter said the state government does not run the site and Flinders Power should be leading the response with help from the EPA, who licenced the company to operate.

"The private company which was running the power station as a commercial operation must bear the cost of the clean-up," the minister said in a statement.

"I have asked the EPA to meet with representations of Flinders Power as soon as possible to stress to the company that they have obligations under their licence."

The EPA has said analysis of samples of the fly ash have showed it "contains minimal toxic metals and substances" but that dust particles themselves may cause health effects, irrespective of their make-up.

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