Wanna play in Rozelle’s toxic park?

Wanna play in Rozelle’s toxic park?

By Peter Hehir

What does the impending Supreme Court of Appeal’s decision in the Desane Properties Ltd case mean for WestConnex, Baird’s park in the goods yard – and for the Inner West?

Whichever way it goes there is a sting in the tail.

If the Court does uphold the earlier ruling then WestConnex will still proceed. It’ll just have a smaller footprint in the Rozelle Goods yard to work with, the proposed park will then be reduced in size accordingly and Desane, a publically listed developer, will proceed with their application to build a multi-story development of 180 home units and a commercial complex.

The ugliness and alienation that is Pyrmont/Ultimo today will have gained a foothold in South West Rozelle. Either way the residents lose.

The choice is between a toxic park courtesy of WestConnex, or an equally toxic development on land that was zoned Railway Special Uses B under the Leichhardt 1979 Town Plan.  Clearly the choice is no choice at all. It’s either the devil or the deep blue sea.

The problem with the park are the toxic emissions from the 3 unfiltered exhaust stacks. Most aware and health conscious parents will be loath to bring their children to a place where they can run around  inhaling some of the estimated 50 tonnes of carcinogenic particulate matter and the nitrogen dioxide that will be exhausted from the unfiltered stacks annually.

Medical scientists insist that there is no safe level of air pollution. Figures provided by the RMS in relation to the Lane Cove Tunnel show that tunnel users will be exposed to more than 50 times the maximum levels suggested by the Word Health Organisation, at the end of the tunnel.


Research undertaken by Sydney South West Area Heath Service in 2011, in response to a possible cancer cluster around the M5 East exhaust stack, was unable to exclude the stack as a possible source of the observed increases.


The 40% increase in cancer in this local population was contrasted with a fall in cancer rates of 9% across the State during the same period. It is noteworthy that prior to the opening of the M5 the incidence of lung cancer in this area was somewhat lower than the State average.


If the proximity to both the port and the airport were to blame for the cancers then this would obviously have manifested more widely. It should be stressed however that there was no evidence of a cancer cluster in any of the other adjacent suburbs.

The RMS absolutely refuse to filter the stacks, stating that ‘filtration doesn’t work’, that ‘it’s too expensive’ and they employ ‘world’s best practice’. All three of these statements are blatantly and demonstrably untrue.

Their assertion that ‘filtration doesn’t work’ is based on a botched trial – deliberate or otherwise – conducted on the M5 East and flies in the face of the highly successful results obtained from filtered road tunnels in other parts of the world.

In tunnel filtration is significantly cheaper than the exhaust stack method used by the RMS here in NSW. When  filtration equipment to remove both PM 2.5, (particulate matter smaller in diameter than 2.5 microns – a micron being 1,000 of a millimetre) and the oxides of nitrogen is installed during construction as part of the tunnel design, the cost of servicing the filters compares more than favourably with the running costs of the RMS system.

Anyone who has approached the M5 East tunnel portal from the south will be aware of the acrid assault on the nose that instantly causes vehicle occupants to automatically wind up their windows. What is being experienced is the heavily polluted air that has been pushed down only 2.5 km of the westbound tunnel, which has particle levels up to 50 times greater than the outside air.

The RMS use large fans to counter the piston effect of exhaust gases being pushed out of the tunnel by the stream of traffic. It is an EPA requirement that there be no emissions at a tunnel exit portal here in NSW. But there are no pollution monitors at the exit portal and the exhaust stack on the M5 East is midway along the tunnel length. Go figure.

The RMS approach is of course nowhere near ‘world’s best practice’. It ignores the state of the art approaches in Spain, Japan, China, Norway and Italy. Results in Japan have shown that 98% of particulate matter can be easily removed in the tunnel.

The RMS are well aware of the results worldwide but bloodymindedly still refuse to admit that they are just plain wrong, presumably because of the loss of face, or even more likely, that they are acutely aware of the huge cost of retro filtering existing road tunnels.

If Stage 3 of WestConnex does find a contractor and a buyer willing to take the risk, it’s only a matter of time before the groundswell of resident opposition rises to such a crescendo, demanding that road tunnels in NSW be filtered, that it will become too great to be ignored.