There are now many instances where people especially from interstate have found themselves buying into small towns in Tasmania because the properties were dirt cheap - only to discover in the last few years that these areas are toxic environments.
I was one of these people when I bought my home in 1995 in Rosebery, a town which I thought was just an underground mining town with no problems from mine pollution.
Many people who have bought into these cheap towns have done so with the goal of having a peaceful hideaway in the bush or to establish a small tourism venture and have expended considerable sums of money in either of these pursuits. This has occurred in Rosebery, Royal George and Pioneer.
How were these newcomers to know that these towns would one day become stigmatised as toxic towns?. How could they have known that for years they had been drinking poisoned water? But other people did know that there were potential health risks for people living in these toxic towns. Many employees over the decades in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Councils, Mineral Resources Tasmania (MRT), Environment Protection Authority (EPA), Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment (DPIPWE) and the many so called independent consultants had knowledge of the potential health risks from toxic metal contamination in these towns. Many have said they certainly would not live in these towns themselves. Some of these employees worked on these taxpayer funded reports produced by government departments or environmental consultants.
Yes, investigations and reports funded by you and me ... yet rarely accessible to the public or peer-reviewed. Where are they to be found?
In the last couple of years Tasmanians have woken up in the morning to hear on local radio news about yet another town that has had its source of raw drinking water found to be dangerously contaminated by toxic metals…...arsenic, cadmium, lead and some high levels of other metals. Who knew about this, how long did they know for, why didn’t residents affected get to hear about the potential health risks on Council Information Notes with Certificate 337’s before they bought their properties.
In the Rosebery case we know of high profile so-called independent consultants who for some time knew of critical information on the history of the location of toxic hotspots in Rosebery as well as hotspots that have been severely impacted by normal mining operations in Rosebery. One of these consultants was sacked by their employer over the data and information included in their report but was subsequently fortunate to find employment with another environmental consultants’ firm. The other consultant continues to sit on various government committees and continues to get numerous consultancies from the mining industry and various government departments. Fortunately for us this information was leaked to us and has proved to be critical information used to underpin our claims of the very real health risks for people living in Rosebery.
The information we have received from these consultants has been very useful. But the problem for many people employed in areas associated with public health risks from contaminated sites is the fear of job loss if they speak out about the truth. Confidentiality agreements are a major impediment to protecting the public’s health in the areas of contaminated sites assessments. It is not always possible for so called independent contaminated sites experts to produce truly honest reports with honest recommendations. Why would they if this would result in a loss of contracts from either the corporate or government sectors? A toxic cocktail of corporate miners continuing to be allowed to self regulate, a Department of Health whose major aim is litigation deterrence and a toothless EPA sends a clear message to employees that the truth is not the aim here.
If you know any person working for environmental consultants who might be privy to important public health risk information about contaminated waterways or sites - please ask them to leak, for goodness and the children’s sake! Don’t let other people continue to have their health impacted like has happened to so many already in Tasmania due to secrecy and cover-ups on toxic drinking water supplies or polluters.
Kay Seltitzas “is a researcher with the Toxic Heavy Metals Taskforce Tasmania and a former resident of the west coast mining town of Rosebery. Kay was one of ten residents of Rosebery diagnosed in 2009 by Dr Andreas Ernst with heavy metal poisoning from arsenic, copper and cadmium etc. Kay has campaigned for an independent public and environmental health investigation into the long term health risks posed to Rosebery residents from legacy and current emissions from MMG’s Rosebery mine. Since evacuating from Rosebery in August 2009 Kay has continued to expose the serious flaws in the Department of Health, EPA, West Coast Council and Taswater investigations from 2008 until the present without gaining any support from any political parties in Tasmania. New information not previously released publicly with regard to pathways of exposure to toxic emissions in Rosebery will soon be released to the media. “