Inner West Independent

Leichhardt residents fight energy provider

Rozelle and Leichhardt residents at St Columbia's Primary School / Photo: Edwin Monk

Charles St residents and parents Terry Reynolds and Evan Pearson are gravely concerned by Ausgrid’s plans to lay 132,000 voltage cables underground down the street.

Mr Reynolds has two children under the age of six and fears that the high voltage cables – touted to run down Charles and Elswick Streets in Leichhardt – pose dangerous health risks, including an increased cancer risk for children aged under five.

“No one knows exactly what level of exposure may cause interruption in human cell function, which in various cases involves children developing leukaemia,” said Mr Reynolds.

The proposed site runs near St Columba’s Primary School and the Early Achievers Child Care Centre. A petition has been formed with 130 local residents’ signatures, including that of the Principal of St Columba’s, Fran Stewart.

Mr Pearson is father to a three-year-old child and is adamant Ausgrid should exercise their own Prudence Avoidance Policy and place the cables in low-density areas away from children. Hawthorne Canal and Darley Rd have been proposed as feasible alternative sites.

“It’s a pretty high voltage cable,” said Mr Pearson. “We just think there is an alternative route which is much more practical and it doesn’t give a significant cost to Ausgrid. It’s much more sensible when you look at it in terms of health and safety impacts.”

A meeting between Mr Pearson, Ausgrid and local Greens MP Jamie Parker took place on Wednesday, May 1 to discuss the complaints.

“It was a very productive meeting,” said Mr Pearson. “We discussed some of the limitations with the modelling that had been presented so far, and Ausgrid committed to doing an additional report detailing further information about the suspected radiation that might happen due to the cables.

“There will be a independent report that will check their work.”

Ausgrid argues the cables do not pose any serious risks.

“The proposed cables will be completely safe,” said an Ausgrid spokesperson. “Electric magnetic fields (EMF) are produced by all electrical appliances, including televisions, refrigerators and computers.

“The proposed cables would cause little, if any, change to the existing EMF at any property boundaries along the route, including schools. Other feasible options were considered, including Hawthorne Canal and Darley Rd, but these would each add additional costs of at least $2 million to the project.”

Mr Pearson argues that $2 million is a small price to pay for ensuring their children’s safety.

“That is a figure that they have mentioned – I don’t know how accurate it is. This is around 4 per cent, or maybe less, of the project value,” he said.

“When you think about it in terms of minimising the risks to the community, it’s a small fee, particularly when they have a Prudence Avoidance Policy.”