Sydney Metro dust control update

A quick update on the dust pollution incidents I've witnessed at the Sydney Metro dive site at Marrickville, just over the border from the Stanmore ward.

As previously reported on my Facebook and Instagram pages, I'd been walking past the site in June when I saw huge plumes of construction dust billowing out of the site and straight towards the businesses, passing cars, schools and homes on the surrounding roads. This isn't supposed to happen, because this dust can contain nasty stuff you really don't want to be breathing in.

I received a response soon after I sent this video to the Sydney Metro team, who told me that following this incident, they would "further improve practices by installing dust suppression fixtures within the north western areas of the site in the form of a sprinkler system along the hoarding" (along Railway Pde), which has since been done.

However, when I was passing the site on 2 August, I saw more dust escaping from within the tunnelling area, which I again filmed and sent in to the Sydney Metro team.

Again, I'm pleased to report they responded promptly and sent me the following email last week. Here's an extract of their reply:

"[O]ur site team including the Senior Environment Coordinator commenced investigations on Friday 3 August. JHCPBG has also reported your complaint to the EPA.

The investigation concluded:

  • Work being carried out at the time at the Marrickville dive site was to excavate the dive area at approximately 15 metres below surface.
  • The spray system installed on the fence along Railway Parade was operating as intended. In addition, spraying had been used within the dive area regularly during the day.
  • The site supervisor confirmed that dust mitigation in the immediate area of the excavation was assessed during the work.
  • It was assessed that the material being excavated (shale) was saturated from groundwater ingress (that is water in the ground that seeps through the excavated surface) and additional active dust suppression was deemed to not be required at the time.
  • Following a review by the site team, additional active dust suppression is now being used even if there is groundwater ingress. This includes the use of additional hoses near the excavation activities as well as an additional water misting system installed within the excavation.
  • The Senior Environment Coordinator has undertaken a subsequent inspection of the dust mitigation and has deemed these measures as appropriate.

The site team has continued to monitor this over the weekend and are satisfied that the mitigations in place should minimise any fine dust within the dive area, consistent with our Environmental Protection Licence requirements.

Managing dust using water in a confined space does have challenges, as the supervisor also needs to consider any safety and run off implications created. Our supervisors and environment team work hard to find the balance to carry out the work safely and minimise dust at the same time."

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has also been in touch to assure me they'll also continue to inspect the site and monitor the situation. I'm glad they'll be doing this, as engineering challenges notwithstanding, this is a site that's surrounded by hundreds of homes and workplaces, as well as schools and childcare centres, so it's important that any health and safety issues are managed appropriately.

If you ever have concerns or wish to report issues, call the Sydney Metro in the first instance on 1800 171 386. EPA complaints can be made 131 555, and the Department of Planning and Environment on 1300 305 695. All of these phone lines are 24/7.

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