Inner West Mayor Rochelle Porteous told a Parliamentary Inquiry yesterday that the Western Harbour Tunnel, a planned underground motorway connecting the Warringah Freeway to the Rozelle Interchange, could render Balmain’s newly-reopened Dawn Fraser Baths ‘unusable’.
The Dawn Fraser Baths reopened last week after Health Minister Brad Hazzard granted Councillor Darcy Byrne’s request to open the baths for swimming during lockdown.
Now, Ms Porteous worries that the impact of the Western Harbour Tunnel will damage the historic baths.
“The Western Harbour Tunnel construction plans include dredging contaminated sediment from the harbour floor,” Ms Porteous said. “Toxic plume from this sediment will most likely escape into the harbour where it will impact dog walkers, fishers and swimmers, including users of Dawn Fraser Baths.”
State Member for Balmain Jamie Parker also held concerns for the project.
“142,500 cubic metres of contaminated sediment will be dredged from the harbour floor and processed at White Bay. This sediment was stated … to be contaminated with dioxins, tributyl fin and heavy metals as a result of the harbour’s industrial past,” Mr Parker said in June.
“While some minimisation measures are proposed like shallow floating silt curtains, these measures may not be sufficient to prevent plumes of contaminated sediments escaping to the harbour.”
Ms Porteous contested much of the findings in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
“Consultation … for this project has been poor,” she said. “The catastrophic impact the Western Harbour Tunnel could have on the baths … was not even included in the Reference Study and the [EIS].”
A Transport for NSW spokesperson told the Independent in March that the baths are 1500m upstream from the proposed dredging site and that even in the worst-case scenario, water quality won’t be impacted.
A key issue shared in the Inner West is the three unfiltered exhaust stacks that will be linked to the Western Harbour Tunnel and the WestConnex motorway, one stack being located in close proximity to Rozelle Primary School.
“The tunnels will have unfiltered exhaust stacks spewing out millions of tonnes of dangerous exhaust pollution, dangerous diesel particulates and other toxins every day over our children’s schools, our homes and the parks where they play every day,” Rozelle Parents concerned about WestConnex said via Facebook in 2019.
Ms Porteous called for an immediate reassessment of the impacts of both motorway projects.
“We urgently need a comprehensive health study on the documented impacts of WestConnex and the predicted impacts of the Western Harbour Tunnel, including consideration of the cumulative impacts with other major construction projects.”
The Western Harbour Tunnel will connect to the proposed Beaches Link, which will connect commuters from the Warringah Freeway to Balgowlah. It is expected to be complete in 2026.