A smell that sickens, yet Dandenong South gets clean bill of health

Something smells: Ray Tormey next to the Taylors Road landfill in Lyndhurst. Picture: Sam Stiglec

By CAMERON LUCADOU-WELLS

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IT’S enough to make a grown man choke – Lyndhurst resident Ray Tormey has battled a chronic respiratory illness which he believes is triggered by noxious fumes that plague his suburb.

He gasps for air, his eyes water, and he gets giddy, lethargic and nauseated whenever “the smell” arrives. “You lose your grip on life. I’ve had this happen up to three times a week and I don’t know what the chemical is that causes it.”

A recently completed Environment Protection Authority air monitoring study, which included monitors in Lyndhurst, gave Dandenong South’s air quality a clean bill of health.

Mr Tormey can’t believe the EPA’s conclusion. His breathing problems started two years ago, 12 months after moving to Lyndhurst. They peaked on a recent drive on the highway when his car filled with a “chemical smell” that he struggles to describe.

“It wasn’t a methane-type smell. I just about passed out while driving. There was no wind. I was nearly home but I felt giddy. It was not good at all.”

He lives about a kilometre from landfills in Taylors and Hallam roads and near a constant flurry of heavy diesel vehicles on Western Port Highway. Within sight are smoke stacks in the Dandenong South industrial zone.

On doctor’s advice, Mr Tormey takes regular holidays in cleaner pastures. “As soon as I get back, I feel sick as a dog,” he said.

In May, the EPA completed a 12-month air quality study in Dandenong South in response to residents’ concerns about nearby emissions.

The monitoring sites included residential areas on the fringe of the Dandenong South industrial areas such as Bangholme, Lynbrook, Doveton, Dandenong South and Hampton Park. It found pollutants at low levels that were “not a risk to health.”

Lyndhurst resident Bernadette Barker, whose front-yard dahlias have collected a film of white dust, said the EPA’s findings “treat us like idiots”.

“You can’t put washing on the line without getting brown dust on it. If only we had a professional person with lots of money living here. We’re only blue collar working people and we’re not being listened to.”

Professor Michael Abramson of Monash University’s school of public health and preventive medicine, said there was a link between fine airbourne particles and cardiac arrest.

“There doesn’t seem to be a safe level. The best thing we can do is to try to reduce the amount of air pollution.”

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