BY WENDY BACON
Brian Gorman could have died at 37 years of age.
He told the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into WestConnex last week that he was diagnosed then with grade three bladder cancer. After radical surgery, he survived.
At the time he was living in Balmain near the ferry terminal from where diesel fumes drifted into the community. He had never smoked or worked in an industry with harmful chemicals. His specialist urologist told him that in his case air pollution was the number one trigger for causing his cancer.
Brian and his wife Janette Willett understood they must move, but wanted to stay in the area they’d come to love. They chose a house in North West Rozelle. According to his submission, Janette contacted the EPA who stated that “pollution from vehicles on Victoria road posed no significant risk to our health. They said that emission fumes rise into the air and land further away than our immediate location.” So they moved to Rozelle in 1999.
In April 2016, they heard through media that they would be living within 100 metres of a proposed Westconnex unfiltered exhaust stack and tunnel portal on Victoria Road. Within a kilometre, there would be three more unfiltered stacks. There would also be pollution spewing from the exhaust pipes of vehicles stuck in the bottlenecks at Iron Cove Bridge and Anzac Bridge. They joined the community campaign to stop the project but in April this year, the project was approved.
It was not just his family and immediate neighbours that Brian was worried about. A massive construction dive site tis proposed directly across the road from Rozelle Primary School. “Thousands of truck movements will be releasing diesel exhaust fumes for eight years, together with a century’s worth of toxic dust, as well as lethal plumes of emissions meandering from the smoke stack up the hill towards the school“ he wrote in his submission.
Just like the EPA, WestConnex has consistently stated that there will be no risk to his health, but Brian found a different message in the EIS. In his Inquiry evidence, Brian tabled documents from the EIS which state that near where he and hundreds of others live, “there would be an increase in pollutant concentrations on Victoria Road to the north of the Iron Cove Link and near Anzac Bridge as a result of the general increase in traffic due to population growth and the project at that location.”
Not satisfied with NSW government claims that the air quality would be safe, residents did their own research, spending hours reading independent reports. They set up their own community information session at which an independent tunnel engineer, Dr Noel Child, argued strongly that the approved system of longitudinal ventilation and no filtration would not work in long tunnels like Northconnex and WestConnex. Brian and other witnesses asked for Dr Child to be called before the Inquiry.
They came across the work of anaesthetist Dr Ray Nassar who told the Inquiry he did a thorough search of the scientific literature and found nothing to convince himself that unfiltered stacks were safe. He researched particulate matter and its lethal qualities in depth. Dr Nassar moved home away from the Northconnex tunnel stack. This made Brian and Janette, facing what could be a life and death decision, feel even more worried. ( SEE BELOW OR OPPOSITE)
Brian also tabled evidence at the Inquiry from CSIRO research that challenges RMS claims that the toxic air just rises and dissipates. “Professor Ray Kearney directed me to the CSIRO. This (diagram) in particular really scares me. This is a one kilometre square diagram. It shows, if you look at where it is pink and red, where particulate pollution is landing on the ground. That is pretty much where my house is, within that range. What is being professed by the EIS – that it all disappears and is not going to affect anybody – is absolutely false. This proves it and it is a CSIRO report, not something I have made up.”
Brian wrote in his Inquiry submission, “I feel like I’ve been provided with false security from the very government body that should be protecting me. We’ve been tricked and now, with the additional concentration of pollution coming from the proposed tunnel portals and unfiltered stacks, we feel trapped in a toxic suburb endorsed by the EPA and created by the NSW Government via Westconnex.”
“Where is our government’s duty of care?” he asked.
He ended his statement to the Inquiry with this quote: “Members of Parliament should examine their conscience and consider how they would feel if their children or the children of loved ones were exposed to this level of fumes every day and they were part of a government that could have put in place measures to reduce the impact of the fumes. This was said by Gladys Berejiklian in 2008.”
Brian is convinced that if the Rozelle Interchange and its unfiltered stacks go ahead, premature deaths and more illness will follow. But he has not given up. He called for a Royal Commission into WestConnex and a halt to the project.
This is one instalment in a series on the Parliamentary Inquiry into WestConnex.