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Taxpayers foot grape spill bill

Murray Pioneer, 24 February, 2009

Riverland taxpayers could be left footing the bill for a number of grape spills across the region this year.

Of the 20 Riverland grape spills attended by Loxton road maintenance contractor Downer EDI Works, only two transport companies have been identified to pay the costs of the clean-up.

As a result, the Department of Transport Energy and Infrastructure, Downer EDI Works and ultimately the state's taxpayers have born the brunt of this year's grape spill expenses.

Grape spills on Riverland state and main roads racked up a bill of almost $10,000 last year and Downer EDI Works area manager Trevor Jordan said this figure was likely to be matched in 2009.

“(One) week alone we were looking at $1100 doing clean-ups and I'm trying to work out who can pay for that,” Jordan said. “We just want to do the right thing and all we are asking for people to do is to think about the issues grape spills can cause down the track.

“The risk to other people's lives, the safety of my men and the total wastage of water that we are using to clean up the spills.”

Jordan said the repercussions of grape spills were far reaching.

“For the government the next issue will be that they will not be spending money on roads because they're paying us to go and clean up the mess of other people,” he said.

“There are also a lot of people sitting with their arms up in the air because we're squirting thousands and thousands of litres of water down the bitumen to clean-up the spills. And how precious is water at the moment?”

Jordan said it could be easy to forget the local workers forced to attend grape spills — often in the middle of the night or during extreme heat.

“We have to go and do a call out whether it's 48C or 58C and it can be up to 70C on the road,” he said. “You get the public out there complaining about pot holes and stuff on the road, while we are out attending grape spills instead of doing our own work.

“At the end of the day we're not here about money. We are here about the safety of the community.”

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