Professor Paul Torzillo talks about WestCONnex and health

In future posts, we will provide more information about the health and social impacts of the New M5 project and the weaknesses in how they have been analysed in the EIS.

A key problem is that the Baird LNP government has allowed such a short time for the EIS consultation period, which has fallen over the Summer holidays.  Even for people with expertise, it is hard to  process technical information that is buried in the EIS PDF appendices, each of which is hundreds of pages long. Codes are given to ‘receivers’ ( buildings that fall within the study zone). For the average person, this makes computer generated maps and tables look like a maze of numbers.

Before returning to some of the data in the EIS, People’s M5 EIS highly recommends you read  this transcript of a speech by the well know Sydney respiratory physician Professor Paul Torzillo, who spoke at a Westconnex Action Group forum in August 2015. He provides an easily understood  medical specialist’s perspective on the air quality and other health issues arising from WestCONnex. There is a link to the video of his and other speeches below.

Some brief People’s EIS findings:

  • Hundreds of homes and businesses will be affected by significant noise during construction and/or operation to a level that can damage health; while mitigation is recommended for some, no details are provided. Westconnex will provide no detailed plans until after approval, and in some case until after construction begins.
  • There is growing scientific evidence that excessive noise can damage short and long term health
  • Road pollution is a significant contributor to overall pollution; living or working close to congested roads is a health risk; some roads that would  be negatively affected by the Westconnex New M5 are already polluted.
  • There is strong scientific evidence that air pollution, especially PM 2.5 and PM 10 are linked to increased risks lung disease, impaired lung development, strokes, cancer and other forms of respiratory illness.
  • The EIS acknowledges that Stoney Creek Road, King Georges Road, Campbell Street Euston Road Alexandria  and other roads will become more polluted. In some cases, air pollution is already at unhealthy level.
  • Instead of tackling the issue of Sydney’s pollution, the Baird government is planning tollway after tollway for Sydney. This  will leave many people, especially those in Western Sydney, in a car dependent situation. This is unhealthy.
  • Leightons/CIMIC,  who have been awarded the contract before approval, decided that ventilation stacks should not be filtered although tollway projects in other countries have ventilation stacks which filter emissions. The EIS asserts that there will be very low ‘ negligible’ emissions in local areas from the stacks. One reason engineers give for filtering tunnels  is to protect residents in high buildings or land.  In this project, some residents live on hills and others (e.g. in Arncliffe) live in high buildings. There are experts who say that stack emissions are not safe and should be filtered.
  • Increases in traffic will spill over into other roads and streets but because the traffic modelling only extends to two intersections past the boundaries of the Westconnex project, these increased levels have not been modelled or presented in the EIS.

As well, the assessment of air quality and noise impacts are completely dependent on the traffic modelling. We  have already seen from Chris Standen’s submission that the traffic impacts of the New M5 are extremely uncertain. For this reason, the air, noise, social impacts and health risk assessments cannot be regarded as reliable.


Professor Paul Torzillo

Paul Torzillo speech

Traffic Based Air Pollution

G’day everyone. In cities like Sydney, traffic-based air pollution – which the scientists call TRAP, which I think is pretty prophetic – is a major contributor to total air pollution in the cities, it’s about a third, it’s about 30% of the total air pollution that cities like our experience.

It’s got two main components. The first is what comes out of exhaust emissions, so that’s got compounds like carbon monoxide, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide. It’s got benzenes; it’s got things called hydrocarbons, all of which have got a definite association with cancer.

Then there’s a second component to TRAP, and that’s road dust, fine particles from bitumen and rubber ware, and these two components contribute to this thing that they call “particulate matter”; that just means “stuff in the atmosphere”. It’s all small, some of it’s really small and some of it’s really really small, and that gets absorbed into your lungs and into your body. All these things are bad for health.

There’s overwhelming international evidence now from organisations like WHO that shows that that sort of pollution – if you look at what happens across big cities – it increases the number of heart attacks people have, strokes, it increases deaths from heart disease, deaths from respiratory disease, and there is some new evidence in the most recent WHO publication which says it probably impairs lung growth in children and it makes a contribution to diabetes, so these things on a population basis have a big impact on health.

There are three particularly important ( points) about that. The first is: these are effects that you best see when you study health in big populations. They are not things you see easily if you do a two year study in a few streets in Newtown and/or St Peters. The second thing is that these health effects occur both with long term exposure, and with repeated short term exposure. Again, the most recent WHO evidence suggests that repeated short term exposure has definitely got a health consequence. And the last thing that’s important is there’s no evidence about a “safe” lower level of any of these things. So less is better, but less isn’t safe. So almost all the important agency reports talk about “mitigating health effects”. The commonest word that you see in any of these reports is the word “mitigate”.

Link between busy roads and pollution

So what happens when you get a project like WestConnex? There have been lots of these around the world, what do they do? Well the first thing to know is that the levels of this sort of traffic air pollution are high around busy streets, and they’re high probably for up half a kilometre each side – it depends on the topography and wind direction and various other things.

Projects that involve tunnels redistribute traffic related pollution, so some places might be a bit better off, and other places might be worse off. So the tunnels themselves, the smoke stacks, the entrance points the exit point – all these places are likely to have higher levels, although you will see – and you will see on the website – it is hard to prove this because of a measurement problem that I’ll talk to you about in a second. Importantly when traffic emerges from tunnels, surprisingly, it has to go somewhere. So it goes back on to roads, and when it goes to those roads, then those roads have higher use, higher traffic, higher pollution levels.

Hard to measure health risks of pollution

For a whole host of reasons, it’s incredibly hard to give a precise measure of how risky is it to live near a stack, near a tunnel entry or exit point, near a ventilation shaft, and there’s a whole lot for reasons for that. But that doesn’t refute the fact that the overwhelming evidence is that this traffic related air pollution is bad for health.

Now many people say – and you’ll see this on the websites of every agency involved, that what should be done therefore is to monitor air quality. In fact agencies are very keen on this. But there are a lot of questions. The first is: how many of the components of some of the ones I mentioned are going to be managed? Do you measure them continuously or intermittently? How many monitors do you use? Where are they located? How does the public access this information?

In a really big National Health and Medical Research Council review of tunnel related air pollution, the expert committee in their key summary said, and I quote, “We’d like to comment on how difficult it was to obtain data about some Australian tunnels.” So if a federally funded, National Health and Medical Research Council with eminent scientists can’t access the information, how easy is it going to be for us?

Projects like WestCONnex encourage more traffic

The international experience with road projects such as these is that they encourage more traffic. There are more cars, and more people use them. This is bad for population health in Sydney, not just Newtown and St Peters. Traffic and roads have an impact on health. Aside from the ones I’ve mentioned, they reduce our ability to do a bit of walking or a bit of cycling, even as part of what your daily movement has to be. The big game in here is not monitoring, it’s diverting these billions of dollars from these sorts of systems into safe and efficient public transport systems and that’s what we should be concentrating on.



Part 2 Chris Standen: New M5 EIS fails to meet requirements

(Ed: The New M5 is being assessed under State Significant provisions of the NSW Environment, Planning and Assessment Act. Under this law, the Department prepares  the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs). You can read a full copy of the SEARS here.

This is the second part of  Transport planning and modelling specialist Chris Standen’s  four part submission. In this part, Standen analyses the SEARS and finds the EIS does not meet a number of requirements. It’s worth noting that some local Councils and other experts agreed with Standen that the M4 EIS requirements were not met by the Westconnex EIS.  The failure to meet requirements should be a serious matter that if allowed to pass without examination undermines the entire assessment process. No decision has been made on the M4 East project yet.

( If you have missed the first part of his submission, read it here.)  

The submission has been presented by the People’s M5 EIS is a format that suits wordpress. The full submission will be uploaded later on the People’s M4 EIS. You can use this and other submissions on the People’s M5 EIS to develop your own response. 




The SEARS provide for  an analysis of feasible alternatives to the carrying out of the proposal and proposal justification, including:

  • an analysis of alternatives/options considered, having regard to the proposal objectives (including an assessment of the environmental costs and benefits of the proposal relative to alternatives and the consequences of not carrying out the proposal), and whether or not the proposal is in the public interest,
  • justification for the preferred proposal taking into consideration the objects of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979,
  • details of the alternative ventilation options considered during the tunnel design to meet the air quality criteria for the proposal,
  • details of the short-listed route and tunnel options from the tender process and the criteria that was considered in the selection of the preferred route and tunnel design, and staging of the proposal and the broader WestConnex scheme, and in particular access to Sydney Airport and Port Botany and improved freight efficiencies.

Standen’s finding: FAIL 

Comment: The EIS does not include cost-benefit analysis, modelling, or any other objective analysis of feasible alternatives. Only cursory descriptions are provided.

No alternative staging strategies are described or objectively assessed. Continue reading

Vol-1B Chapter-10 Air-quality

Previous chapter: Vol 1B Chapter 09 Traffic and transport

Vol 1B Chapter 10 Air quality

hi-res pdf: New M5 EIS Vol 1B.pdf

Low-res pdfs:

Section Pages
10 Air quality 10-1
10.1 Assessment approach 10-3
10.2 Construction air quality assessment methodology 10-15
10.3 Alexandria Landfill air quality assessment methodology 10-19
10.4 Operational air quality assessment methodology 10-21
10.5 Existing environment 10-41
10.6 Assessment of air quality impacts during construction 10-64
10.7 Assessment of air quality impacts during Alexandria Landfill closure 10-64
10.8 Assessment of air quality impacts during operation 10-69
10.9 Assessment of cumulative impacts 10-179
10.10 Environmental management measures 10-189

Appendix: Vol 2C App H Air Quality

Next chapter: Vol 1B Chapter 11 Human health

Vol-2C App-H Air-Quality

Chapter: Vol 1B Chapter 10 Air quality

Appendix Vol 2C App H Air Quality

Hi-res pdf: New M5 EIS Vol 2C App H Air Quality.pdf

Low-res pdfs:

Section Pages
1.6 Introduction 1  
1.6 Overview of WestConnex 1  
1.6 Overview of the project 2  
1.6 Project location 4  
1.6 Secretary’s environmental assessment requirements 6  
1.6 Purpose and scope of the report 9  
1.6 Structure of the report 10  
2.4 The project 11  
2.4 Overview of Chapter 11  
2.4 Project features 11  
2.4 Construction activities 12  
2.4 Specific aspects of design relating to in-tunnel and ambient air quality 15  
3.6 Key air quality issues for the New M5 project 23  
3.6 Overview of Chapter 23  
3.6 Roads, tunnels and air quality 23  
3.6 Sydney tunnels and air quality 25  
3.6 Advisory Committee on Tunnel Air Quality 26  
3.6 WestConnex Strategic Environmental Review 26  
3.6 Summary of key air quality issues 27  
4.6 Regulation of emissions, air pollution and exposure 29  
4.6 Overview of Chapter 29  
4.6 Policies and regulations for road vehicle emissions 29  
4.6 Fuel quality regulations 31  
4.6 In-tunnel pollution limits 31  
4.6 Tunnel portal emission restrictions 34  
4.6 Ambient air quality standards and criteria 34  
5.6 Overview of assessment methodology 39  
5.6 Overview 39  
5.6 Key documents, guidelines and policies 39  
5.6 Consultation with government agencies and ACTAQ 40  
5.6 Previous road and tunnel project assessments 40  
5.6 General approach 41  
5.6 Treatment of uncertainty 51  
6.7 Existing environment 53  
6.7 Overview 53  
6.7 Terrain and land use 53  
6.7 Climate 54  
6.7 Meteorology 55  
6.7 Emissions 58  
6.7 In-tunnel air quality 63  
6.7 Ambient air quality 63  
7 Assessment of general construction impacts 65  
7.8 Overview 65  
7.8 Construction footprint 65  
7.8 Construction activities for the project 66  
7.8 Assessment procedure 67  
7.8 Step 1: Screening 69  
7.8 Step 2: Risk assessment 69  
7.8 Step 3: Mitigation 75  
7.8 Step 4: Significance of risks 75  
8.3 Alexandria Landfill closure and remediation: dust and odour assessment 77  
8.3 Overview 77  
8.3 Dust assessment 77  
8.3 Odour assessment 91  
9.9 Assessment of operational impacts 95  
9.9 Overview 95  
9.9 Emission calculations 95  
9.9 In-tunnel air quality 113  
9.9 Dispersion modelling 115  
9.9 Results for expected traffic scenarios (ground level concentrations) 145  
9.9 Results for expected traffic scenarios (elevated receptors) 207  
9.9 Results for regulatory worst case scenarios 211  
9.9 Summary of key assumptions 212  
9.9 Sensitivity tests 218  
10.3 Assessment of cumulative impacts 221  
10.3 Overview 221  
10.3 In-tunnel air quality 221  
10.3 Ambient air quality 221  
11.2 Management of impacts 225  
11.2 Construction impacts 225  
11.2 Operational impacts 228  
12.3 Summary and conclusions 239  
12.3 Construction impacts 239  
12.3 Operational impacts 239  
12.3 Management of impacts 243  
13 References 245  
13 Location of WestConnex 3  
13 Overview of the project 5  
13 14  
13 Kingsgrove ventilation facility – location 17  
13 Arncliffe ventilation facility – location 18  
13 St Peters ventilation facility – location 19  
13 30  
13 30  
13 Modelling domains for GRAMM and GRAL 43  
13 Contributions to total pollutant concentrations (example) 50  
13 Terrain in the WestConnex study area 53  
13 Meteorological stations in the GRAMM model domain 56  
13 Hourly average wind speed at Canterbury Racecourse 2014 57  
13 Hourly average temperatures at Canterbury Racecourse 2014 57  
13 Average wind speed by hour of day, Canterbury Racecourse 2014 57  
13 Average temperature by hour of day, Canterbury Racecourse 2014 57  
13 59  
13 Future projections of sectoral emissions – Sydney, 2011-2036 60  
13 percentage of total) 61  
13 Future projections of road transport emissions – Sydney, 2011-2036 62  
13 Steps in an assessment of construction dust (IAQM, 2014) 68  
13 70  
13 Annual and seasonal wind roses for Sydney Airport (2014) 79  
13 Annual statistics of 1/L by hour of day 80  
13 Annual distribution of stability type by hour of day 80  
13 Dust source locations as represented in AERMOD 84  
13 85  
13 86  
13 87  
13 88  
13 89  
13 90  
13 excavation and leachate management (OU) 94  
13 Estimated traffic volume, composition and speed in the New M5 tunnel 96  
13 Emission rates for project ventilation outlets (CO, NOx and PM10) 98  
13 Emission rates for project ventilation outlets (PM2.5, THC) 99  
13 104  
13 Example traffic model output (link 10285-10313, motorway, 2014) 108  
13 109  
13 NOX emission rates in 2013 112  
13 concentration limits) 114  
13 Overview of the GRAMM/GRAL modelling system 116  
13 Example of a wind field across the New M5 domain 120  
13 Annual and seasonal wind roses for Canterbury Racecourse AWS (2014) 121  
13 122  
13 Modelled discrete receptor locations 127  
13 Building heights at RWR receptor locations 130  
13 Frequency distribution of building heights at RWR receptor locations 131  
13 Example of ventilation air flow profile used in GRAL 133  
13 136  
13 CO (dotted lines show 95% prediction intervals) 139  
13 140  
13 141  
13 142  
13 144  
13 146  
2021 Source contributions to maximum 1-hour mean CO at community receptors (2021 146  
2021 Change in maximum 1-hour mean CO at community receptors (2021-DS and 2031 147  
2021 147  
2021 Change in maximum 1-hour CO at RWR receptors (2021-DS) 148  
2021 149  
2021 149  
2021 150  
2021 Annual mean NO2 at community receptors (2021-DS and 2031-DS) 150  
2021 151  
2021 152  
2021 Source contributions to annual mean NO2 at RWR receptors (2021-DS) 152  
2021 Changes in annual mean NO2 at RWR receptors (2021-DS) 153  
2021 Contour plot showing annual mean NO2 without the project (2021-DM) 155  
2021 Contour plot showing annual mean NO2 with the project (2021-DS) 156  
2021 157  
2021 158  
2021 159  
2021 Contour plot showing annual mean NOX for ventilation outlets only (SPI outlet, 2021 160  
2021 Maximum 1-hour NO2 at community receptors (2021-DS and 2031-DS) 161  
2021 162  
2021 162  
2021 163  
2021 Changes in maximum 1-hour NO2 at RWR receptors (2021-DS) 163  
2021 Contour plot showing maximum 1-hour NO2 (2021-DM) 165  
2021 Contour plot showing maximum 1-hour NO2 (2021-DS) 166  
2021 167  
2021 168  
2021 Annual mean PM10 at community receptors (2021-DS and 2031-DS) 169  
2021 170  
2021 170  
2021 Source contributions to annual mean PM10 at RWR receptors (2021-DS) 171  
2021 Changes in annual mean PM10 at RWR receptors (2021-DS) 171  
2021 Contour plot showing annual mean PM10 (2021-DM) 172  
2021 Contour plot showing annual mean PM10 (2021-DS) 173  
2021 174  
2021 outlet, 2021-DS) 175  
2021 176  
2021 177  
2021 Maximum 24-hour PM10 at community receptors (2021-DS and 2031-DS) 178  
2021 178  
2021 179  
2021 179  
2021 Changes in maximum 24-hour PM10 at RWR receptors (2021-DS) 180  
2021 Contour plot showing maximum 24-hour average PM10 (2021-DM) 181  
2021 Contour plot showing maximum 24-hour average PM10 (2021-DS) 182  
2021 183  
2021 outlet, 2021-DS) 184  
2021 outlet, 2021-DS) 185  
2021 186  
2021 Annual mean PM2.5 at community receptors (2021-DS and 2031-DS) 187  
2021 187  
2021 188  
2021 Source contributions to annual mean PM2.5 at RWR receptors (2021-DS) 189  
2021 Changes in annual mean PM2.5 at RWR receptors (2021-DS) 189  
2021 Contour plot showing annual mean PM2.5 (2021-DM) 190  
2021 Contour plot showing annual mean PM2.5 (2021-DS) 191  
2021 192  
2021 outlet, 2021-DS) 193  
2021 194  
2021 195  
2021 196  
2021 197  
2031 197  
2031 198  
2031 Changes in maximum 24-hour PM2.5 at RWR receptors (2021-DS) 198  
2031 Contour plot showing maximum 24-hour average PM2.5 (2021-DM) 199  
2031 Contour plot showing maximum 24-hour average PM2.5 (2021-DS) 200  
2031 201  
2031 (Kingsgrove outlet, 2021-DS) 202  
2031 (Arncliffe outlet, 2021-DS) 203  
2031 outlet, 2021-DS) 204  
2031 205  
2031 205  
2031 and 2031-DS) 206  
2031 and 2031-DS) 206  
2031 208  
2031 209  
2031 annual mean PM2.5 of more than 1.6 µg/m3 (shown as as yellow points) 210  
2031 Annual mean NO2 at community receptors (2031-DS and 2031-DSC) 221  
2031 222