Australian military base pollution causing cancer

Jenny and Terry Robinson, victims of Australian military base pollution

From the World Socialist Web site in New South Wales, Australia:

Official report “just a fob off”

Australia: Residents denounce government response to PFAS health disaster

By our correspondents

29 May 2018

WSWS correspondents recently spoke with Terry and Jenny Robinson, who have lived in Williamtown near an Australian air force base for 17 years. The property is within the “red zone” established by the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority in 2012 after soil and water tests indicated high concentrations of PFAS chemicals (see: “Australian government reports whitewash responsibility for toxic foam crisis”).

Property prices in the area have plummeted and there are serious concerns over the health impacts associated with the chemicals. Jenny is one of a number of residents suffering from cancer.

WSWS: What do you think about the government health report’s dismissal of the dangers of PFAS chemical contamination?

Terry Robinson: I personally think it is just a fob off, especially with everything that has happened in America, where they have proved it is an issue and that there are definitely health effects linked to it. The government can provide drinking water to certain people but it’s not stopping the issue. Our properties are still worthless. No one’s going to buy them.

WSWS: And the decision by state and federal governments not to compensate people living in contaminated areas, or buy out their properties?

Terry Robinson: It’s an absolute disgrace I can understand why they’ve done it, because it’s such a widespread problem. They’re just mitigating their liability and they’ll just ride that to the ground. As other contamination sites began to unfold, that was a bad sign for us, because if it was only one or two sites, they might have done something.

Jenny Robinson: Defence are also doing extensive work on the Williamtown aerospace extensions, but they still haven’t stopped the contamination coming off the base. They have not tested the soil there because they know it will be contaminated, so it’s full steam ahead for them.

WSWS: Could you comment on the NSW Health report on the cancer cluster?

JR: NSW Health’s study included 1,400 people from as far away as Karuah. They included Williamtown but excluded Fullerton Cove or Salt Ash. Less than 20 percent of the people who were in that study actually live on contaminated land. They diluted the data so they could get the answer they wanted. And they only used evidence from 2005 to 2014. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, so I wasn’t included.

TR: When Jenny was diagnosed we hadn’t really talked to a lot of people in the area, but we gradually noticed a pattern. For example, a gentleman next door died of cancer. We knew someone else on the other side of the road who died of cancer. Jenny basically put together how many people on this corner had cancer-related issues or had died from cancer. On this road here there’s been some pretty rare forms of cancer that overseas have been linked to this chemical.

WSWS: Do you think the $74 million in federal funding for PFAS is satisfactory?

TR: No, it’s a drop in the water. We’ve received nothing from them.

The only thing we’ve had is a blood test. By the time we finally got our tests done, there was a changeover with the company that was doing them and our blood tests weren’t paid. I’ve never had debt collectors chasing me in my whole life, but I did on this occasion because they never paid the bill and we had summons taken out on us.

JR: Before they started the blood tests, there was a drop-in centre where you could talk to various departments. I asked a doctor from NSW Health when we were getting our blood tests. He said there is no point in the blood testing because it will only indicate how much chemical is in your blood, and it can’t indicate if you will have health issues.

I asked if we would have follow-up blood tests. Again, he said there wasn’t much point because it stays in your blood for a number of years, but they would probably look at doing tests again in five years. I took my beanie off and I was totally bald from the chemotherapy. I said: “And I’ve got to live five years to find out if it’s reducing?” He got up and walked away.

TR: They’ve got no answers when you confront them. This is going to be the biggest environmental issue in Australia.

WSWS: You have signs in your front yard criticising the air base. What’s been the response?

TR: I was furious over what happened. We had to do something, so we put up a couple of signs. Some of the neighbours had concerns that it would affect real estate prices, but that was early on, now real estate is finished. I’ve actually had people who work at the base pull over and ask about the signs. They want to know about this chemical. They’re concerned too.

WSWS: Are you involved in a legal class action?

TR: Yes, we felt there was nowhere else to go. I knew Defence was never going to walk up my driveway and say: “We’ve done the wrong thing, here’s a cheque for you and we’ll buy you out.” That was never going to happen. It’s clear now but there were a lot of people holding out for that. There are a lot of people around here who need to get out. They’re starting to get tired. We’re all tired.

WSWS: What’s your experience with government ministers?

JR: We’ve had a couple of ministers come up here. We knew that Senator [James] McGrath was coming. He is supposed to be in charge of the government’s PFAS taskforce but he was only going to speak to a select number of residents and we weren’t allowed to let media know.

The media did find out and Defence Minister Marise Payne actually showed up. She didn’t have much to say but told the media: “We’ve all got this in our blood. It’s even in my blood.”

NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian came here recently and wanted to talk to residents. We were invited and so we went. The rest of the people there were just business people and property developers. One of them complained that he had $10 million tied up in property here that he couldn’t do anything with.

We came away from the event feeling like we’re nothing. We’re just residents with a property and have got more to lose than the developer. We’ve got everything we own tied up here.

Williamtown residents are angry over the PFAS contamination crisis. Photo ABC Four Corners

Venomous snake in Sydney, Australia

This video from Australia says about itself:

18 October 2016

Red-bellied black snake found outside bar in Sydney CBD.

By Daniel Uria in Australia:

Red-bellied black snake found outside of Australian pub

Oct. 18, 2016 at 2:41 PM

SYDNEY — Pub goers at a business district in Australia were shocked to find a possibly wounded snake slithering outside of the property.

The Morrison in Sydney shared a photo of the red-bellied black snake which was spotted outside the establishment on Tuesday afternoon.

“The staff couldn’t believe what they were seeing,” the bar’s manager told The Australian. “You don’t expect to see a massive deadly snake in the city while you are relaxing and having a drink.”

Police contacted handler Harley Jones who said the 4-foot long snake was in good condition although blood on its head indicated it may have suffered an injury.

“The snake’s injury is as much of a mystery as why it was there in the first place,” Jones said. “There was quite a lot of blood on the footpath.”

Possibly, a car caused the snake’s injury. Dutch NOS TV writes today (translated):

The vet found no internal injury to the snake. The animal has been named George, after the street where it was first seen in Sydney. It will probably get released in the wild in the coming weeks.

Red-bellied black snakes can grow to 2.5 meters long. The poison is fatal, although there are only a few known cases of people who have actually died because of the effects of a bite.

From the Australian Museum:

Red-bellied Black Snake

This beautiful serpent shares our love of sunshine and water, and is a familiar sight to many outdoor adventurers in eastern Australia. Attitudes towards these largely inoffensive snakes are slowly changing, however they are still often seen as a dangerous menace and unjustly persecuted.

Red-bellied black snake stuck in beer can

By Tania Dowsett in Australia, October 2016:

Snake with drinking problem gets rescued from beer can

An Aussie venomous red-bellied black snake gets a little too curious about those last few drops of beer in an empty can

The other evening a lovely man called concerned about this poor red belly who obviously had a drinking problem. So we took him for some help and where else would I go calling: Craig Bergman who very kindly helped remove the can so we could treat him and get him back to nature.

Endangered Australian regent honeyeaters’ victory in court

This video from Australia says about itself:

Release of captive bred Regent Honeyeaters

21 April 2015

The fourth and largest release of captive bred Regent Honeyeaters (Anthochaera phrygia), undertaken in the Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park in Victoria’s north-east. The release of around 80 birds bred at Taronga Zoo will add to the wild population in north east Victoria and southern New South Wales, and increase community awareness and participation in the post-release monitoring program.

From BirdLife:

Win for Critically Endangered Australian Regent Honeyeater in Court Decision

By BirdLife Australia, Mon, 14/03/2016 – 03:54

BirdLife Australia is celebrating a landmark court decision to protect the Critically Endangered Regent Honeyeater. In a desperately needed win for the Critically Endangered bird, the NSW Land and Environment Court has found in favour of a challenge to the approval of a development which would have destroyed its habitat. In the decision, it was recognised that the Regent Honeyeater is in “grave peril” and that Cessnock City Council acted improperly in approving a Development Application for a steel fabrication facility in Regent Honeyeater habitat in the Hunter Economic Zone (HEZ) in the Lower Hunter Valley, NSW.

Friends of Tumblebee, represented by community legal center EDO NSW, claimed that a Species Impact Statement (SIS) should have been carried out to properly assess the impacts of clearing for the development on Regent Honeyeaters. The Court agreed, concluding that in the absence of an SIS, the approval issued by Council is invalid. The Court added: “Preservation of this area is therefore of vital importance to the long term survival of the species. Habitat destruction is a primary reason for its imperiled status.”

The Regent Honeyeater may number as few as 350-400 birds in the wild.

The decision also recognises the important contribution BirdLife’s Regent Honeyeater data made to informing the decision, a testament to the huge amount of effort our volunteers put into searching for this elusive species each year.

BirdLife Australia is well aware of the significance of the HEZ for Regent Honeyeaters. In 2007/08 one of the most significant known Regent Honeyeater breeding events of the last decade (approximately 20 nests and up to 100 individuals) was recorded within the HEZ. Dean Ingwersen, BirdLife Australia’s Regent Honeyeater Recovery Coordinator, said “the Lower Hunter Valley is one of only four known core areas for Regent Honeyeaters and the HEZ site is possibly the most important part of these lowland forests for the species.” Dean added, “the biggest threat to the species is loss of habitat, so this is a common sense decision in the conservation of these birds. Further to the breeding event in 2007/08, this site has been one of the most consistently used in NSW in the past decade and is likely to be an important refuge under drying climatic conditions in the future.”

The HEZ is situated on one of the largest wooded remnants in the Hunter Valley and was rezoned for industrial purposes by the NSW Government in March 2002 after minimal ecological investigations. Since rezoning occurred, numerous ecological studies have shown that the HEZ contains a remarkably large range of threatened flora, fauna and ecological communities, including being one of the most important single sites for Regent Honeyeaters.

The Lower Hunter Valley Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) was recognised as one of five “IBAs in Danger” across Australia in a report by BirdLife Australia in 2014, due mainly to the threat posed by the broader HEZ development. The decision is welcome by BirdLife’s Woodland Birds for Biodiversity Project Coordinator, Mick Roderic; ”from the start this proposal failed to consider the ecological impacts the development would have on a range of threatened species. The ruling supports our long-held view that loss of these woodlands would imperil the Regent Honeyeater, a species our organisation and volunteers work tirelessly to save.”

The decision also demonstrates that cumulative impacts of smaller proposals within larger “staged” developments need to be properly considered by consent authorities.

Entangled southern right whale saved

This video from Australia says about itself:

Removing fishing line from Southern Right Whale at Roseville

Taken aboard My Girl 11/08/2015.

From daily The Independent in Britain about this:

Sydney fishermen film the moment they remove fishing line and plastic from a whale‘s head after it ‘came up to them for help’

‘It was surreal, we couldn’t believe our eyes’

Adam Withnall

Thursday 13 August 2015

A group of fishermen have captured extraordinary footage of the moment they helped free a whale from entangled rubbish after it seemed to seek out their help.

Michael Riggio, 17, and Ivan Iskenderian told the local Manly Daily newspaper they were sailing home from a fishing trip when they noticed the animal, thought to be a southern right whale, near Sydney, Australia.

The fishermen said the whale, which appeared some way up Middle Harbour just north of the New South Wales city, appeared to be looking for them to do something.

While Mr Riggio took photographs, Mr Iskanderian was able to reach out to the whale and remove a large mass of fishing lines and plastic that had got caught on the animal’s face.

“It was right on his lip… he seemed like he wanted it off,” Mr Iskenderian said.

Another man out on his boat in the same stretch of water, Ron Kovacs, was able to take a video of the moment the rubbish came free.

He posted it to Facebook, and explained that the whale had spent some time taking an unusual amount of interest in a group of boats.

“He had a big scar on his back, and some fishing line and two plastic bags on his head,” Mr Kovacs said.

“He [kept] popping his head up so you could reach out and remove the garbage. He tried on my boat bit [it was] a bit harder as we are a bit higher – I made one grab for the bag but missed.

“He later came up to a trailer boat and presented his head as they removed the bag and [then] the fishing line. It was as if he wanted them to take it off.”

Mr Riggio, who posted a selfie of the experience on Instagram, said it was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, just seeing it so close”.

The fishermen said that after the rubbish was removed, the whale seemed to show its appreciation by slapping its fin on the water. Mr Iskenderian said: “It was surreal, we couldn’t believe our eyes.”

Canada: Stranded [Killer] Whale Rescued From Jagged Rocks By Duct Tape And Towels: here.

Right whales are getting tangled in fishing gear, and that’s a big problem: here.

Bird news from Australia

This is a little woodswallow video from Australia.

From Birdline New South Wales in Australia:

Sunday 12 April 2015: Little Woodswallow, Pacific Swift

Euligal State Forest, Kenebri

At least 15 Little Woodswallows at the southern end of Cadet Rd (-30.784096,149.176005). They were perched, feeding young, flying overhead and bombing me. There were also good numbers of White-browed Woodswallows nearby.

Six Pacific Swift over the creek crossing just east of Kenebri an hour earlier. Two White-backed Swallow and 10 Turquoise Parrots were seen at The Aloes en route.

Max Breckenridge 13 April 2015