Residents, drivers at risk without `essential’ filters on East West tunnel

Melbourne Leader: Residents, drivers at risk without `essential’ filters on East West tunnel. Kylie Adoranti. 15 April 2014

Parkville residents Lulzim Allpici and his wife Brionie together with Oliver, 3, and Alex, 6 months, at the park opposite their home which will be near the tunnel ventilation outlet. Picture: JANINE EASTGATE Source: News Corp Australia

THE  health effects of Melbourne’s major road projects such as the East West Link need to be properly considered, experts say.

As the contract for the $8 billion project comes closer to being signed, health experts have warned of the potential risks associated with pollution coming from the tunnel and have called for filters to be included as part of the construction.

While no filters are planned for the East West Link, Linking Melbourne Authority spokeswoman Gemma Boucher said there would be two ventilation structures — one at each end of the tunnel.

Melbourne Hospital Respiratory and Sleep Medicine director Associate Professor Louis Irving said it was essential effective ventilation and filtration systems were included in the tunnel’s exhaust shafts and that the air quality surrounding the tunnel be monitored.

“They (the government) need to consider whether the tunnel will worsen air quality in the area. We need to be aware of the consequences of poor air quality,” Prof Irving told the Leader. In a report to the East West Link Project Assessment Committee, Prof Irving said users of the tunnel, residents, workers and schoolchildren in the area would particularly be at risk of health problems caused by vehicle exhaust.

Prof Irving said the consequences of atmospheric pollution included worsening asthma, worsening lung disease and it could cause acute cardiac problems. He said long-term effects of poor air quality were lung cancer in adults, heart disease in adults and respiratory disease in young children.

Asthma Foundation of Victoria chief executive Robin Ould said he was particularly interested in the planning of the East West Link Tunnel and how the government would handle air pollution.

“Nitrogen dioxide and small particulate matter are a major health risk for at least all of those people with asthma and respiratory conditions,” Mr Ould said.

“Therefore, our position would be that the government needs to consider all of those things in its planning — how is it going to monitor the pollution inside the tunnel and how do they let people know what the pollution levels are.”

Parkville couple Lulzim and Brionie Allpici are worried about air pollution.

The pair, who have two young children, Oliver, 3, and Alex, six months, live in Manningham St, close to the proposed link off-ramps.

“I have two little kids so we use Royal Park a lot for recreation,” Mr Allpici said.

“We don’t want the kids to go and play next to a massive exhaust pipe.”

Opposition Planning spokesman Brian Tee said once contracts were signed little could be done to reverse the decision. “The experts, the doctors, the people who look at the impact on human health say it (air pollution) is a problem,” Mr Tee said.

He said it was important to rely on the experts rather than the Linking Melbourne Authority, which he described as “the government’s attack dog who is trying to promote this dud project’’.

Linking Melbourne Authority spokeswoman Gemma Boucher said the East West Link would not have filters, but there would be two ventilation structures — one at each end of the tunnel.

Ms Boucher said emissions from the tunnel “would be rigorously monitored in accordance with Australian standards, which are regulated through the Victorian Environment Prot ection Authority”.

She said monitoring of CityLink and EastLink showed air quality in surrounding areas was not impacted by their tunnels.

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