It’s their ‘right to know cancer cluster truth’
A NSW Upper House parliamentarian will call for an investigation into community concerns that Mooball may still be contaminated with radioactive sand mining tailings.
Greens MLC Jan Barham's action comes despite NSW Health giving the village the all-clear.
The Tweed Daily News reported in August last year that Tweed Heads GP Paul Malouf believed a high rate of cancer was present in the village and could have been caused by the widespread use of radioactive sand as soil fill during sand mining operations in the Tweed for much of the last century.
Dr Malouf first raised the alarm with authorities about soil contamination in 2013 and told two Northern NSW Local Health District scientists in October 2015 that he knew of at least 30 individuals with cancer on Tweed Valley Way - including four of his own patients.
But in a letter to Dr Malouf and resident Ronald Marshall, dated December 3, 2015 and obtained by the TDN, outgoing Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Chris Crawford ruled out an investigation into the claims.
Mr Crawford, who retired at the end of December, said the Health District gained access to a 1983 radiation survey showing areas with elevated radiation on 25 private properties and two parks at Mooball had been remediated at that time.
Mr Crawford said after the clean-up, a 1985 departmental report concluded "no areas showed radiation levels above relevant action criteria".
The report further stated: "...properties in the Mooball area have been adequately decontaminated".
Mr Crawford said the 30-year-old report had recently been reviewed and agreed with its original findings and "it was unlikely this situation would have changed in the 30 years since the decontamination project."
An Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson told TDN current safety standards could not be "directly compared" to 1985 standards, but did believe NSW Health applied the contemporary standards "appropriately" in releasing Mooball in 1985.
Ms Barham, from Byron Bay, said questions still remained and she would seek a review of the health district's refusal to investigate the matter further when Parliament resumed.
"I don't believe there is enough information currently available to address the concerns raised by the doctor and believe a new survey and investigation is required in light of the high incidence of cancers," Ms Barham said.
"It is important that historical contamination issues are identified in local government planning documents to inform potential purchasers of properties of past contamination.
"It is their right to know the situation, and government should always provide disclosure on public health and safety issues."
Dr Malouf said he was concerned Mr Crawford's decision was made before the evidence of each cancer sufferer was submitted by him, as requested by scientific officers.
"We thought it was their duty to conduct detailed investigations of the 30-odd cancer cases in the 30-odd dwellings on the Tweed Valley Way," Dr Malouf said.
"Whether it's black sands or banana contaminants - they should investigate."
Doubt was last August cast on remediation works by former Tweed Shire Council plumber Geoff Keevers, who participated in the original remediation program and first raised concerns in 2001, claiming some radioactive sands may remain in house footings at Mooball.
NSW HEALTH SAYS CANCER COUNT IS 'AS EXPECTED'
THE Northern NSW Local Health District (LHD) has ruled out further investigation of community fears that a cancer cluster may have developed at Mooball.
In correspondence to Mooball resident Dr Paul Malouf last month, outgoing Northern NSW LHD chief executive Chris Crawford said the number of diagnosed cancer cases was within normal parameters.
"The assertion of 28 new cancer diagnoses within the Mooball village is almost exactly the number expected (27.3) over a decade, using the state average age- and-sex-specific cancer incidence rates and using the gazetted locality of Mooball's population of 377," Mr Crawford said.
"Uncertainties about the time period and 'population at risk' make further exploration of a purported cancer cluster problematic.
"Further investigation of a purported cancer cluster would require strong justification due to the invasive nature of such investigations and their significant resource implications."
Dr Malouf disputed 28 cases had arisen from the entire population of Mooball. He had previously told scientific officers the identified cancer sufferers had all resided on one street in the village - Tweed Valley Way.
Residents have established a formal group to gather more information, with the date of a public meeting soon to be released.