From the No Good Deed Goes Unpunished Dept.: A frustrated Australian politician’s determination to paint his local bridge may have ended with lead paint contamination in the river below.
Ivan Venning, 66, a Liberal Member of Parliament from South Australia, warned in July that he would paint the Robin Bridge in Nuriootpa himself because he was tired of waiting for the local government to do it.
In November, Venning did just that, organizing a group of volunteers to scrape off the bridge’s old lead-based paint and then repaint it. Local reports identified Venning’s crew as a group of volunteers from Craig Marston Painting, a local family-run residential and commercial painting contractor.
The company was not immediately available for comment.
The controversial Venning—inevitably nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible" in the press—says DIY work saved South Australian taxpayers more than $590,000 (about $618,730 US). Officials are not so sure.
ABC News (submitted)
MP Ivan Venning says he got tired of waiting for his local government to paint the Robin Bridge.
The South Australia Transport Minister says the project may have unleashed lead paint into the Barossa Valley river.
Minister Pat Conlon told State Parliament that Venning “should have taken the painting project more seriously,” reported the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC).
"The department (Environment Protection Authority) advised me, and we subsequently advised the Member for Schubert, that the painting of the bridge would have to be done operating [under] proper protocols with safety equipment," Conlon said.
"I am told that the EPA have serious concerns that the actions of the Member for Schubert have released fugitive traces of lead into the river beneath.
"The Member for Schubert should never have done what he did, and I hope he doesn't find himself in trouble over it."
Venning told ABC that his group took “proper precautions,” although those weren’t detailed.
Earlier, he had said that he was tired of waiting for the government to paint the bridge and that the money he had saved the government should be used to buy a dialysis machine for his district.
The EPA said its emergency response team was not called during the job. The agency urged anyone finding evidence of pollution in the river to come forward.