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The toxic threat confronting Inner West residents

NSW government

Anti-Westconnex protesters outside NSW parliament house in 2017. Photo: WestConnex Action Group.

Opinion by PETER HEHIR

This Guardian article highlights the bleak future that faces all inner west residents who live within the fallout zone associated with any of the unfiltered WestConnex exhaust stacks.

In concert with the aggressive position taken by the fossil fuel lobby, reminiscent of that last ditch stand by the cigarette companies, the NSW Government continues to deny any connection between the unfiltered stacks and the substantial increase in lung cancers experienced over the past 20 or so years with the M5 East stack at Turrella.

The Monash University Air Quality monitoring study showed that this exhaust stack harvests and releases exhaust pollution from a twin two lane road tunnel just 4.2 klms long and confirmed that the 37 kilograms/day stated by the then RMS was conservatively estimated at 27 metric tonnes per annum.

However, the expected “harmless dispersal into the atmosphere” quoted by the RMS spielers simply didn’t happen! 

The smoke test plume conducted quietly at night by the Monash University didn’t soar up into the stratosphere but gently settled over the homes in the Wolli Creek valley and was quickly abandoned. This embarrassing study has somehow mysteriously disappeared.

Figures provided by the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District show an increase in lung cancers of 44 percent in residents who lived downwind of the Turrella plume, while the State average over the period of the study fell by 9 percent!

Data from the South Western Sydney and Sydney Local Health Districts showing changes in lung cancer rates around the M5 East Stacks. Photo: South Western Sydney and Sydney Local Health Districts

The Rozelle stacks will gather vehicle exhaust gases from Homebush, Ashfield, Rozelle, Camperdown, Leichhardt, St Peters and Cammeray when all of the three and four lane tunnels come into service.

Extrapolated from daily figures released by the RMS – data meticulously recorded for more than twenty years by two members of RAPS (Residents Against Polluting Stacks), both of whom have a scientific background; those who reside or work within the fallout zone from the three White Bay exhaust stacks can expect to ingest carcinogenic diesel particles smaller than 2.5 pm (< 2.5 microns across) from these unfiltered stacks, emitted at a rate well in excess of 50 metric tonnes per year!

Excluding the Western Harbour Tunnel and Northern Beaches Link, the entire 33 kilometre multilane WestConnex tunnel network, with an average of three to four lanes in each direction will emit more than 185 metric tonnes via the exhaust stacks in the inner west. That’s at least one tonne per lane per year!

This is a massive increase when compared to the 27 tonnes spewed out from the single Turrella stack!

Berejiklian’s government continues to peddle the outrageous, bald faced lie that Sydney’s plethora of tolled tunnels employ “the world’s best practice”. This is demonstrably untrue and is almost certainly criminally negligent! 

During times of extended temperature inversions, where the plume is forced down by the hot air above, the volume of polluted and cancer causing air will build up below the inversion layer, as seen in the attached pic. This will reach staggering life threatening levels in the White Bay valley for weeks on end. The morbidity, mortality and the health costs are almost incalculable.

Research demonstrates that fossil fuels, the ‘Invisible killer’ caused 8.7m deaths globally in 2018. Fossil fuel pollution from power plants, vehicles and other sources accounted for 1/5th of all worldwide deaths in 2018.

We would do well to remember that both the ALP and the Coalition at State and Federal levels are wholehearted supporters of these denigrated, outdated, hideously expensive, badly designed, unlined and unfiltered road tunnels.

Massive resident protests against WestConnex here over the past five years have had little impact.

But in a democracy we do have one card left to play – and that’s the one that you place in the ballot box…

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