The old asbestos roof in the balloon shed at the Cook Islands Meteorological Service has been removed and replaced with a new roof.
Work has been carried out by RVK Contractors, one of only two companies on Rarotonga qualified to work with asbestos.
RVK manager Keta William says removing the asbestos is a positive move and all safety precautions have been taken.
The Cook Islands Investment Corporation has contracted RVK Contractors to do the work, and clearing of the site is underway at the moment. All asbestos will be transported by T&M Heather and buried on a private section.
National Environment Service manager of the advisory and compliance division Vavia Tangatataia says there are still quite a few buildings with asbestos in them on the island. Most are government buildings, he says, with only a few private homes containing the potentially hazardous material.
Tangatataia says the Cook Islands were fortunate to be part of the recent PacWaste project, which addressed the asbestos issue in schools and some government buildings.
There is also a possibility that another similar project could address the issue of those government buildings still affected.
Tangatataia says that the landfill, under the management of Infrastructure Cook Islands, does not accept asbestos and so the common practice is to use whatever land is available, provided the landowners agree.
Disposal is handled in accordance with the national asbestos guidelines, says Vavia.
The Cook Islands Meteorological Service is operated by 10 staff and runs 24 hours a day.
Technical officer Sam Nga keeps the equipment going and says he learnt his trade “on the job, and overseas”.
Observer and quality manager Nathan Tisam says tracking weather is an hourly event.
To forecast the weather, staff use many observational skills such as air pressure, wind speed, wind cover and direction, as well as keeping track of online readings and past knowledge of weather patterns.
These changes are monitored hourly says observer Manea Maretapu, and the differences are compared and hourly reports chart those changes. He says using satellite and online readings, they can predict up to a five-day weather forecast.
Once the balloon shed is finished, the balloon will be returned. Balloons are sent up with a weather pack attached to measure atmospheric conditions.