Two years ago, a massive plume of toxic chemicals was discovered beneath the site of a Sydney waterfront development. Now Australia’s tax payers face footing the $98m clean-up bill.
Australia’s Environment Protection Authority just declared that chemical leaching of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene and cyanide at the site poses "a significant risk of harm to human health and the environment" also pointing out the the chemicals are at "concentrations significantly exceeding trigger values for the protection of human health".
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, it has also recently come to light that, "the contaminated groundwater is making its way into Darling Harbor, potentially killing marine life at the tourist hot spot."
The Herald also pointed out that:
There is a distinct possibility the site’s polluter, Alinta, may escape the cost of the clean-up because a higher threshold of remediation is required to allow residential towers on the site.
This would be normal as well engineered loopholes often allow polluting corporations to escape cleaning up the toxic messes they create worldwide.
Chief executive of the Barangaroo Development Authority, John Tabart, says the site is safe because "contaminated ground water is away from the public." he continued:
"It is controlled… and removed from that area, [but] this can’t continue on and that is why there is now a remediation order."
Folks like Mr. Talbert are often overly optimistic about remediation and the safety of highly toxic sites. It would be nice if contaminated ground water didn’t pose a threat to the public due to it’s being underground, that would seem logical to those unfamiliar with benzene plumes. At best Mr. Talbert is unaware that in areas heavily contaminated with aromatic hydrocarbons, vapors have been known to rise to the surface sometimes seeping into homes. Also, underground chemical plumes are notoriously difficult to completely remediate, meaning there will likely be some amount of benzene present under the site for a very long time.
Recently a government gazette said this about the contaminated groundwater at the site:
"[The contaminated groundwater] is impacting the surrounding areas, including the basement of a residential building adjacent to the site, potentially exposing humans in that building to harmful vapors; however, it is currently being effectively controlled."
Prolonged exposure to benzene has been linked to severe and potentially fatal blood disorders such as aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, acute lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, and others. According to the World Health Organization, humans should take all possible measures to avoid benzene whenever possible.