Planned childcare centre near unfiltered ventilation stack concerns community Reply

By Lauren Mackenzie

Air pollution near busy transport routes like Epping Road is a health hazard. Photograph: express000

Air pollution near busy transport routes like Epping Road is a health hazard. Photograph: express000

Lane Cove residents have called on the Department of Planning to reconsider its concept plan for a high-rise development complex. They claim the area is unfit for residential occupancy due to its close proximity to one of two unfiltered ventilation stacks only a few hundred metres away.

Meriton, Australia’s largest property developer, bought the former Shell service station site on Epping Road in May after the Planning Assessment Commission permitted a development application for the site for six buildings from six to 20 storeys in August last year.

Meriton has requested 12 changes to the initial Voluntary Planning Agreement, including the requirement for a childcare centre catering for 85 children. The planned childcare centre is to be built about 250 metres away from the unfiltered western stack of the Lane Cove Tunnel, which releases volatile toxic compounds such as benzene, toluene and xylenes. It also discharges diesel fumes, which in July last year the World Health Organisation declared to be a level 1 human carcinogen.

In approving the Lane Cove Tunnel, the NSW Department of Planning allowed for 14 tonnes a year of volatile toxic compounds to be released from both stacks.

Some of the major impacts on health include inflammatory lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and alveolitis, adverse effects on lung development for ages 10 to 18 years, significant risk of ovarian and lung cancer and, in some cases, can lead to premature death.

Long-time resident Ray Kearney, former Associate Professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, University of Sydney, is one of the many locals concerned about the serious health impact the complex will have on the community and environment.

“The current air-pollution standards do not relate to health risks. The various regulatory authorities know this is the case, and in my opinion have exploited it to avoid installing filtration,” he says.

The Federal Senate Committee’s report of its inquiry into the health effects of air pollution in Australia, released on August 16, 2013, said that many communities close to industrial sites, major transport routes and infrastructure were being exposed to air quality that did not meet the National Environmental Protection Measure standard’s object of protecting health.

“It would be a dereliction of bureaucratic duty to approve a childcare centre whilst proven carcinogenic and toxic emissions are left uncontained. Buildings will cause downwash and enshroud the children with toxic fumes depending on wind direction”, Dr Kearney says.

The Senate report also revealed that the current monitoring of pollution and health impacts locally was unsatisfactory and a cause for concern among the local community, with data from monitoring stations deemed inaccurate and difficult to obtain.

Local resident Rebeccah Elley, who suffers from asthma, says development should not go ahead unless appropriate measures were undertaken to ensure the safety of residents.

“I worry about the long term effects this will have on our community. I cannot understand how this development could gain approval without addressing serious health concerns,” she says.

Dr Kearney believes the answer lies with filtration. “Filter the stack and then consider a childcare centre,” he says.

The proposed amendments are currently on display at Lane Cove Council and will be assessed and determined by the Planning Advisory Committee by the end of the month.

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