An expert in environmental biology and pollutants has stood by Kurnell residents who are experiencing health problems from a recent oil spill.
Dr Megan Murray, a professor at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), said the sewage overflow at the treatment plant on April 7 could cause “problems for years”.
Around 700 liters of hydrocarbon residues containing mainly diesel materials were discharged. Residents reported overwhelming fumes causing headaches, coughing and itchy eyes.
Michelle Myers, who lives on Bridges Street, was evacuated with her two children. She needed to use eye drops to “rinse” her burning eyes. “My symptoms went away when I left and came back when I came back. We don’t know what it’s doing to our long-term health,” she said.
Lisa Caldwell, on Tasman Street, said her asthma flared up. “Usually it’s occasional and sporadic, but he’s been playing. I’ve had to use my reliever several times a day when normally it would be once or twice a month at most,” she said.
[Oily] toxic compounds that can trigger minor problems, such as eye and skin irritation, or more serious health risks with high concentrations and long-term exposure, including immune system dysfunction and cancer.
dr megan murray
Dr. Murray, Associate Director for Teaching and Learning in the College of Life Sciences, says contaminated spills are “always a concern,” especially when they affect communities and ecosystems.
“I think residents are right to be concerned,” he said. “Oily mixtures can be harmful if they are concentrated enough or spilled in ecologically sensitive areas. [They] they have many toxic compounds that can trigger minor problems, such as eye and skin irritation, or more serious health risks with high concentrations and long-term exposure, including immune system dysfunction and cancer…all affected areas for this spill must be analyzed thoroughly. “
Ampol says he doesn’t think there are any risks to human health from the incident. Independent tests showed that benzene was not detected in any soil sample. Ampol is working with residents and businesses that have requested testing on private property and will provide compensation where necessary.
According to SGS, a leading global testing company, semi-volatile petroleum hydrocarbons, often referred to as diesel-range organics or DROs, can cause human health problems, including eye and skin irritations and breathing difficulties.
A NSW Health spokesperson is working with the EPA to understand the situation and provide advice to residents about “any potential health risks”.
“These chemicals can accumulate in the sediments of aquatic habitats and cause problems for years if enough contamination persists,” he said. “We will soon have a better idea of the environmental impacts of this spill and what the ongoing risks of damage are.”
Dr. Murray, who is researching new and traditional oil spill remediation technologies, says wet weather conditions haven’t helped.
“These recent rains are extraordinary. It’s the wettest year on record for Sydney’s rains, and as a result we’re seeing all sorts of environmental problems, including severe flooding, degraded water quality and extensive erosion,” he said.
“That said, we must have confidence that contaminated industrial waste storage systems can withstand the forces of nature. With climate change intensifying storm activity, these events will continue to affect Australian communities. Our environmental protection systems now they must be sturdy and safe.”