Inner West Independent

WestConnex blasting threatens Leichhardt residents

Residents protest in Leichhardt against WestConnex. Photo: WestConnex Action Group

By RIDA BABAR

The WestConnex project’s joint-venture contractor has applied for permission to blast under Leichhardt’s residential streets.

The Acciona Samsung Bouygues joint venture (ASBJV) submitted the application to break rock for excavation on a segment of Leichhardt’s Norton and MacKenzie Streets last month after abandoning the procedure in Annandale earlier in the year.

The proposition has grown concerns of Inner West residents who continue to face ground-borne noise and vibrations along the planned WestConnex route. Member for Balmain, Jamie Parker, believes blasting will endanger wellbeing in Leichhardt.

“It threatens serious damage to properties over and above the damage that is already being caused by conventional tunnelling in our local area,Mr. Parker said.

But the WestConnex project team say potential blasting will be completely safe for residents and poses no threats for properties. They said the method will actually reduce noise and vibration impacts.

“Controlled blasting is a common tunnel excavation method that has been safely used on other rail and road tunnel projects in Sydney,” a WestConnex spokesperson said.

Blasting, if required, will begin in February 2021 when developers expect to encounter harder rock between the 36th Battalion Park and the Pioneers Memorial Park.

Leichhardt Against WestConnex Co-Convenor Jennifer Aaron believes landowners are at most risk from the excavation process.

“Throughout the prior stages of the project residents who have suffered damage at the time of tunnelling have had their claims knocked back,” Ms. Aaron said.

The procedure will involve pre-drilling a series of holes in the underground rock before detonating those holes with explosives to separate the rock into manageable pieces for removal. The section of motorway subject to blasting will be 40 to 50 metres below houses and the Sydney Secondary College Leichhardt Campus.

Community concerns

ASBJV’s application to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment comes after arrangements to blast in Annandale were abandoned earlier this year. Three small-scale blasts trialled beneath Reserve Street in July showed blasting to be impractical. Rockbreakers and roadheaders were used to continue digging the tunnel.

“It has not been fully explained why the conditions under Leichhardt are different from those under Annandale,said Ms. Aaron.

“Communities in the Inner West have long been collateral damage in the quest to push through this ill-conceived project.”

The WestConnex project team has worked to create the Controlled Blast Management Plan should blasting be necessary in the construction’s future. As part of the plan, every blast will be overseen by an industry expert that’s been included in similar operations over the last three decades.

A final decision on the blasting scheduled for this month. Potential blasting in Leichhardt would occur between 7:00am and 6:00pm on weekdays and 8:00am to 6:00pm on Saturdays, conducting two blasts per day, per tunnel.

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