Residents waiting on results of test that never happened

Residents of a rural road have been left high and dry waiting for results of a test that never happened.

Joan and Denise Gordon are confined to inside the house to escape the dust. Picture: ELIZA WINKLER

Joan and Denise Gordon are confined to inside the house to escape the dust. Picture: ELIZA WINKLER

Five, possibly six, residents of Bulwer Road, Moss Vale, have been suffering from lung-related illnesses with one 70-year-old-woman confined to a 24-hour oxygen tank.

Plans to upgrade and partially seal the dirt road were on the agenda in Council's Ordinary Meeting on February 26, following concerns about the fine dust that blew off the road.

Councillor Holly Campbell raised the issue in the meeting and said council could be "facing a potential court case" if they did not perform tests on the material and seal the road.

Prior to the meeting Cr Campbell had asked to be present during a sampling, but was not advised when this happened.

During the council meeting on February 26 a staff member informed councillors, council staff and the gallery that a sample had been conducted and that they understood it did not present anything that would "cause concern".

Southern Highland News has now been advised by council the sampling never took place.

Works on the road began two days ago and a council spokesperson said soil testing was now underway.

It may however, be too little too late with another resident now falling ill.

Resident Denise Gordon was rushed to hospital last week with pneumonia and said the delay in the testing had left the residents disillusioned.

"I'll believe it when I see it (testing) as this has been promised before and not carried out," Ms Gordon said.

"Only when the road was sealed this week, were we told that in fact testing had never been done and soon all evidence would be covered under six inches of bitumen."

Ms Gordon contacted the council two and a half years ago with concerns about the dust and became further alarmed when her 15-year-old daughter, mother Joan and she, herself, began to suffer from throat and respiratory problems.

"I couldn't breathe, I had to get the ambulance and go to hospital and now I have pneumonia," she said.

"My young daughter and I have suffered from sore chests for the last three months and my otherwise healthy mother is on an oxygen concentrator 24/7 for the rest of her life.

"My daughter has been on antibiotics for her chest infection and I recently found out the two teenage girls next door are having the same problem.

"Others are suffering from recurrent sore throats, chest infections, asthma, and even changes to their voices," Ms Gordan said.

"The residents of this road feel hoodwinked, blocked and downright deceived over this whole issue of what is on the road or not on it.

"Our greatest fear is asbestos or silica is on the road, but with the amount of chest infections we have suffered it must be realised that any dust is dangerous."

"No one will give me any answers and now my young daughter could suffer from this and I won't be around to protect her 30 years from now. It just breaks my heart."

Ms Gordon also expressed her concerns about a condition called Dust Pneumonia which is a disorder of the lungs caused by excessive exposure to dust particles.

NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) recognises small dust particles have an air pollutant factor in its studies on particle matter.

A council spokesperson said samples were taken in October 2013 for engineering purposes, but that no specific dust samples have been conducted.

The spokesperson said council was in the process of organising an accredited environmental hygienist to do independent dust sampling.

"Preliminary visual inspection suggests the material is crushed limestone and the testing will verify the composition of the material," the spokesperson said.

"This testing will be carried out prior to the commencement of any sealing and Cr Campbell will be invited to be present at the testing should she wish to attend.

Cr Campbell called for an immediate stop-work on the road pending dust samples and expressed her frustration about not being advised originally.

"Staff have now told me that no tests were done due to wet weather," Cr Campbell said.

"January was incredibly dry and so dusty that the family relocated for three weeks.

"Wet samples could still have been taken and dried out but now dust can be found inside Mrs Gordon's home on curtains and upholstery.

"It could be said that this was deliberately misleading and council never really actively pursued my initial request and never really had the testing in the pipeline.

"Any dust of high quantity or concentration high enough is considered dangerous by the EPA.

"Dust is still a health hazard and it can't be ignored."

Council had planned significant road works for Bulwer Road this financial year, which had been delayed due to bad weather conditions.

Part of the road will be sealed and the remainder of the road will be reconstructed and gravelled at an estimated cost of $200,000.


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