By DANIEL LO SURDO
Leichhardt residents are growing increasingly concerned with potential property damage resulting from the WestConnex tunnel blasting that could begin as early as next month.
WestConnex contractor Acciona Samsung Bouygues (ASBJV) applied to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment in November seeking permission to break rock under areas between Leichhardt’s 36th Battalion Park and Pioneers Memorial Park. A final decision on the proposal is scheduled for the coming days.
The application was met with apprehension from Leichhardt residents who believe blasting will compromise the condition of their property.
Leichhardt Against WestConnex Co-Convenor Jennifer Aaron understands landowners are most at risk from the excavation process.
“Many in the community have concluded that blasting is being considered to save the joint-venture time and money and not to reduce impacts to residents,” Ms. Aaron told the Inner West Independent.
“Property owners ultimately carry […] the risk of repairs not being adequate or of sufficient quality.”
The WestConnex project team reassured Leichhardt residents they will be entitled to appropriate provisions should the application be approved.
“Properties close to the proposed controlled blasting work area have already been offered a pre-construction property condition survey,” a WestConnex spokesperson said.
“Controlled blasting is designed so as to not cause vibration at a level that would cause property damage.”
Controlled blasting is a method used to excavate rock into manageable pieces for removal. The procedure involves pre-drilling a series of small diameter holes in the rock face before loading and detonating the holes with small charges to properly withdraw the hard rock.
The contractor’s promises have failed to diminish residents’ frustration. They have become disillusioned with assurances from the WestConnex project team.
“ASBJV’s assurances that blasting is safe, that it will be conducted within acceptable limits and that it will be closely monitored does not allay our concerns,” Ms. Aaron said.
“Throughout the prior stages of the project residents who have suffered damage at the time of tunnelling have had their claims knocked back. Even when the earlier stages contractors agreed to pay for rectification it has taken years for the remedial works to commence.”
The joint-venture’s proposal comes after plans to blast under Annandale were abandoned in July last year. Three small-scale blasts trialled beneath Reserve Street were found to be impractical, opting to instead use rockbreakers and roadheaders to continue excavating the tunnel.
Ms. Aaron believes that the project team will not provide landowners with the satisfactory resources to seek compensation for damages ensuing from the underground blasting.
“When claims arise the contractors won’t provide owners of property that has sustained damage with the satellite data and geotechnical reports that might assist in establishing causation,” Aaron said.
“Property owners will have to obtain reports at their own cost in order to prove their claim.”
With a final decision on the proposal looming, the Controlled Blast Management Plan has been devised by the WestConnex project team to safely monitor blasting in the immediate future. Under the scheme, an industry expert will be trusted with overseeing every blast taking place in Leichhardt.
Potential blasting in Leichhardt will occur no more than twice on each tunnel between 7:00am and 6:00pm on weekdays and 8:00am to 6:00pm on Saturdays.