Weather hinders Chadwick upgrades

Corrina RidgwayCountryman

Upgrades to CBH's Chadwick facility continue to progress despite the wet conditions and additional workload.

The inclusion of a further two 25,000-tonne bulkheads mid-project because of increased harvest expectations have prolonged pre-season construction undertakings.

Upgrades to key infrastructure in three port zones across the State started in May, as part of the reallocation of $40 million in profits from the 2011-12 season.

Stage one works at the Chadwick site were due to be completed before the 2013 harvest.

Works comprised two weighbridges and a marshalling yard, in addition to the two new 25,000-tonne bulkheads, approved in March.

As the season progressed, further storage requirements were deemed necessary to cater for the record prediction of 2.4 million to 2.8 million tonnes of grain in the Esperance zone.

"Due to harvest estimates and increase in size of proposed tonnages, in August we decided to put in two more open bulkheads," CBH Esperance zone manager Mick Daw said.

"Four weeks ago we started to knock down another sand dune to make way for a further 50,000 tonne storage, and a 500-tonne an hour pit and conveyor."

Mr Daw said the extra works were not an issue but wet weather had held back progress.

"It's just been continuously soggy. It creates a difficulty in getting a seal on anything," he said.

Chadwick site supervisor and surveyor Roger Ellett said the rain was frustrating, as unseasonably strong lows continue to push into the south coast region.

"It has been unseasonal that the cold fronts have been so strong this late into the season. We can't get a break, they are coming in two to three at a time," he said.

The rain has resulted in waterlogging of unsealed gravel bulkhead and roadway bases.

"It adversely affects preparing gravels for base course," Mr Ellett said.

"It has a flow-on effect. We have to delay sealing but the bitumen teams can't just wait around for us. They've got other work to do across the State."

With conditions at saturation point, any moisture is now an issue.

"Any more than 3mm to 5mm now will pull us up," Mr Ellett said.

"We were stopped all day Tuesday last week after 10mm in the morning. We had 17mm for that 24-hour period so could only do bits and pieces the following Wednesday."

A few kilometres from the site, the Esperance weather station has recorded 663mm of rain to September 23, including a staggering 142mm in August.

Forecasts predict further rain events in the next fortnight, while long-range weather forecasts predict a further three strong cold fronts in the region in October alone.

Hold-ups from weather have also plagued outlying receival points.

Delays on base works to 60,000 tonnes of extra storage east of Esperance at the Beaumont bin have been considerable.

Wet base material has now been removed to reveal a harder surface and works have recommenced.

Despite the weather, the two 25,000 stage one bulkhead pads at the Chadwick site are very near completion.

"We are waiting on cement stabilising to go in on the roadways and then one coat of bitumen followed by hot mix. The two extra bulkhead pads are about 30 per cent finished," Mr Ellett said.

The sealing works were scheduled for Monday, however, rain impeded proceedings once again.

"The sealing of pads has been put back due to the wet weather. It's stopped all bitumen works including other CBH projects and roadwork, shuffling back all projects," Mr Ellett said.

Works are now scheduled for Monday, September 30.

"We keep soldiering on. We aren't doing too badly here - everything is ready, we're just waiting for the seal," Mr Ellett said.

"(At Chadwick) we have around 20 men on site every day, starting at 6am and, if conditions allow, continuing until 6pm or a little later."

A total of 37,000 cubic metres of sand were moved in just over two weeks when work started on the extra bulkheads.

"It equated to roughly 3000 cubic metres a day - that's a lot of dirt to shift, basically a whole dune," Mr Ellett said.

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