CBH accused of bin neglect

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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CBH bins in the eastern Wheatbelt are in desperate need of urgent maintenance, but complaints to the co-operative are falling on deaf ears, according to a Southern Cross farmer.

John Wesley, who runs the Charlesville Braham stud and this year planted a 3800ha crop, said he had been lobbying CBH all year to address the problem.

He said he had particular concerns about bins close to him at Southern Cross, Moorine Rock and Merredin, all of which are on the national railway line.

He said bins in his area - built in the late 1960s and early 1970s and at the time considered state-of-the-art - were now in an advanced state of disrepair because of cracks in the walls caused by concrete decay.

But he believes issues at these bins would be reflected throughout the State, having seen many other ailing bins at sites including Wialki, Wilgoyne, Cleary and Muntadgin.

"The Merredin bin has mould growing on it, and on the roof there are dead weeds which had grown half a metre high," Mr Wesley said.

"Of course, that's going to rust the roof out and all the moisture from holes in the roof, and the weed seeds will drop on to our grain."

Mr Wesley said although he was concerned about potential moisture damage, a far more serious risk was the chance weakened walls could collapse.

"I had a good look around earlier this year at the Southern Cross bin, which is right next to the standard gauge rail line," he said.

"The concrete decay on the railway side has already broken away and I can see the reinforcing rods inside the concrete. I am concerned this lack of concrete is weakening the wall.

"There are also great big cracks near the weighbridge and accommodation block.

"If they fill the bins with thousands of tonnes of wheat, my concern is that the wall could potentially collapse. This is a big safety issue."

Mr Wesley said when expressing his concerns at a CBH meeting earlier in the year, he was told the bins were sealed.

But he said that did not address the issue as the sealing was from the inside to prevent weevils, when exterior refurbishment was necessary.

"There were also excuses about being too busy to do the required maintenance, as summer (when concrete is dry) is taken up with harvest," Mr Wesley said.

Merredin farmer Andrew Crook agreed that more could be done to improve the maintenance of the bins.

But he said CBH could not afford to do the required upkeep on all its sites, which reinforced the need to move quickly with its network optimisation program.

CBH general manager of operations David Capper said CBH was continuing to work with Mr Wesley to allay his concerns.

"We have been speaking with him on a regular basis and have plans to visit him this week in an attempt to give him peace of mind," he said.

"We have been very open during the 90 grower meetings we recently conducted that there is a need for significant investment in major maintenance on some parts of our ageing network.

_"However, we can be absolutely certain there is no immediate structural or safety issues with the concrete at Southern Cross." _

_Mr Capper said Mr Wesley would be provided with a written expert assessment of the bins after harvest. _

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