Anti-CSG activist Michael McNamara has called on North Coast health authorities to immediately instigate baseline health studies before the gas industry develops any further in the region.
Mr McNamara, from CSG-Free Northern Rivers and Lock the Gate Tweed, believes the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) should follow the Australian Medical Association (AMA), and Doctors for the Environment, which both issued strong calls last week for comprehensive monitoring and assessment of CSG health risks.
‘We want the local health board to stand up for its community,’ he said.
He added that the South West Sydney Local Health District came out earlier in the year calling for health assessments and baseline testing, telling the NSW Planning Department that it was difficult for them to respond without such data.
‘So we’re saying the local health board has a responsibility for local health management – I mean just look at the initial reports coming out of Tara in Queensland about the health impacts.’
But when South West Sydney made its call back in January, local health bureaucrats declined to comment. Calls made to the NNSW LHD in relation to this article yesterday have yet to be returned.
Mr McNamara said health boards had a responsibility to manage costs so it was time an assessment of the potential burden on the health system (and the tax payer) was undertaken.
‘Let’s face it the CSG companies aren’t going to pick up the tab,’ he said.
‘So calling for reasonable baseline testing and adequate and appropriate risk assessment of health impacts should be a given I would think.’
Last week the AMA released two policy resolutions urging governments to firstly, ensure that ‘all existing coal seam gas extraction projects were regularly monitored for any health impacts and the presence of air and ground-water pollutants in their local environment’.
It also called for all future coal seam gas projects to be subject to ‘rigorous and independent health risk assessments, which take into account the potential for exposure to pollutants through air and groundwater and any likely associated health risks. In circumstances where there is insufficient evidence to ensure safety, the precautionary principle should apply’.
AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said the association welcomed federal legislation strengthening environment protection laws relating to the impacts of CSG projects on water resources, but said that must be supported by national standards and safeguards.
‘Despite the rapid expansion of CSG developments, the health impacts have not been adequately researched, and effective regulations that protect public health are not in place,’ Dr Hambleton said.
Similarly in January, the South West Sydney Local Health District chief executive Amanda Larkin said she had written to the NSW Planning Department saying it was unfortunate her department had not been consulted earlier.
‘A comprehensive assessment would be required to establish the full range of potential health risks, which may include risks associated with air pollution, ground and surface water contamination and noise,’ the health agency told Fairfax Media.
‘The information available does not allow a comprehensive assessment of potential risks to human health.’