Dr Effie Ablett, Ballina councillor Jeff Johnson, Dr Sharon Parry, and Helene de joux of Alstonville, are concerned about the emissions from the Boral batching plant.
Dr Effie Ablett, Ballina councillor Jeff Johnson, Dr Sharon Parry, and Helene de joux of Alstonville, are concerned about the emissions from the Boral batching plant. Melissa Gulbin

Independent cancer tests wanted by Alstonville residents

ALSTONVILLE residents are calling for independent testing of potentially carcinogenic emissions from Boral's bitumen processing plant on Gap Road.

During last week's Ballina Shire Council meeting, a bold motion by Cr Johnson to find an alternative location for the Boral Batching Plant in Alstonville was sidelined by an amendment that council contact the EPA and ask that the emissions from the plant be tested and reported to council.

Alstonville cancer scientist Dr Effie Ablett, who famously called out MP Brad Hazzard and the NSW Government on the undetectable gas mining cancer risks during in 2013, now has her scientific mind set on Boral.

She believes some of the most potent carcinogens (chemicals that cause cancer) known are being released from the hot bitumen plant and could result in an Alstonville cancer cluster in 15 years time.

"Testing is useless unless specific PAH tests are done for very low concentrations near the level of 0.3ng/cu m. Tests need to be done of the fumes coming out of the plant chimney.

"It really does need to be some sort of independent testing by the EPA but we believe it will come back to Boral to do the testing, which means they can choose the (testing) company," she said.

Andrew Ince, Boral General Manager - Asphalt said, "Despite perceptions to the contrary, the level of emissions from the average asphalt plant is actually very low.

"There is no scientific evidence available to suggest that these very low emission levels present any significant health risk to those living around such sites," he said.

"During 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), based on studies, saw fit to reclassify bitumen as carrying a possible risk of being a carcinogen only to those who were in consistent direct contact with the material through their occupation," he said," he said.

Dr Ablett said even if carcinogens were ruled out, hot bitumen batching is carried out at high temperatures. "So there is always the risk of fire or explosion. This is why these plants should be more than 1km from any residential areas. The plant needs to be moved," she said.

Cr Johnson said, "Boral is in breach of state guidelines regarding residential buffer zones. There are hundreds of houses within that buffer zone. It's not good enough," he said.

Over the last 30 years Boral production has grown. At the same time Ballina Shire council has continued to allow residential development in and around Panorama Drive. Boral now has a production licence of 100,000 tonnes.


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