Inner West Independent

Unrest at White Bay over fumes

The Sea Princess departs Sydney Harbour

Residents of Balmain are demanding action from the Sydney Ports Authority on what they describe as “extreme pollution” emanating from ships at the White Bay cruise terminal.

The Sea Princess, which docked on the recent long weekend, was the subject of particular grievance, with locals describing toxic fumes and a lingering smell detectable for more than a kilometre from the vessel.

“It is simply not acceptable in this day and age that residents of inner Sydney be exposed to such health risks and be expected to live with such dangerous toxic emissions so close to their homes,” wrote Elizabeth Horribin in documents seen by the Inner West Independent.

Ms Horribin, who lives adjacent to the terminal, described the smell from the Sea Princess as “totally overpowering and sickening”.

But Sydney Ports said in a response that pollution measured on Monday, October 7 was within “the usual levels associated with general operations at the terminal during cruise ship days”.

Fellow Balmain resident Gill Hazel also complained about “furnace-like blasts of noise” and a “disgusting toxic stench” from sister ship, the Dawn Princess.

The presence of the Pacific Jewel last week caused further frustration. Ms Hazel said Sydney Ports’ air quality tests were “laughable”, and expressed concern about the imminent cruise season.

“This situation is only going intensify over the coming months as we start to open up houses and move outside with the warmer weather,” she wrote.

Sydney Ports told residents that industry group Carnival Australia is responsible for determining which ships dock in Sydney Harbour and that “if their choice of vessel is causing you concern, it might be best to take it up with them directly”.

A Sydney Ports spokesperson later confirmed that 27 individual complaints about noise or air emissions had been received since the terminal opened in April. Duncan Gay, the Minister for Roads and Ports, has been made aware of the issue.

“The Minister has been advised that Sydney Ports, in conjunction with the relevant cruise lines, is doing everything within its power to address the concerns,” the spokesperson said.

Sydney Ports undertakes measures to reduce noise and air pollution where possible, for example requesting cruise lines to operate on the minimum power requirement of two generators while berthed.

The spokesperson said the testing conducted on October 7 was only visual, “to ensure that the observable level of emissions were not greater than is generally observable during the normal course of operations”.

Actual air quality monitoring will take place under the Air Quality Management Plan, designed in consultation with Leichhardt Council, Sydney Water and the NSW Environment Protection Agency.

The plan states that sulphur dioxide emissions must average less than 228 micrograms per cubic metre in any 24-hour period, and less than 712 micrograms per cubic metre over any 10-minute period. There is no evidence those levels have been exceeded.

A full environmental audit will be carried out after the first year of operation has elapsed.