LEAD Action News
3 no 1 Summer 1995.
Childcare Centres on Main Roads - New Guidelines
by Ann Gethin
The LEAD Group has obtained draft guidelines for Local Approvals of Childcare Centres being prepared by the Local Government Association. Under these guidelines environmental site assessment must be provided by the applicant and must demonstrate that the site is a safe distance from hazardous industries and "safe from any other environmental health hazards such as high lead levels." This second point raises the question of whether air, or soil and dust samples will be used to determine the level of lead hazard. Air samples alone will not be adequate if there has been a build up of lead at the site and the soil is contaminated. Children using the centre still risk lead poisoning, particularly those between ages 1 and 2 with their high amount of hand to mouth activity.
The guidelines also state that "Sites such as old service stations are inappropriate for the establishment of child care centres." Although clearly a desperately needed guideline for child care centre approval the appalling situation of existing childcare centres on old service station sites needs to be rectified.
Paul Ellercamp, the chair of the Kirrawee Precinct Committee in Sutherland Shire in southern Sydney, stated that two childcare centres were approved on old petrol station sites in the Sutherland Shire. One case was not approved by the Sutherland Council only to be approved by the Land and Environment Court, and the second was approved by the Council. It is located in an industrial area with astroturf placed over the tarmac. "Not even a new shelter was provided for the kids who are now consigned to this place every day, alongside the roar of trucks and cars and amidst their fumes, in the baking sun."
A recent press release from the Sutherland Shire Council relating to the location of child care centres did not mention banning them on the sites of old petrol stations. Their concern appeared to be mainly with locating child care centres on busy roads. Although this concern is to be applauded, their proposal to use air lead as a determinant of planning approval (even if taken in 'peak hours of traffic') misses the point. The vast majority of old petrol station underground fuel storage tanks are known to leak, thus contaminating soil and groundwater with volatile organic compounds as well as lead.
There are no specific rules to assist authorities assess the lead or other toxin contamination of a site.
Sutherland Shire Council recently adopted a resolution (an interim measure until a formal policy can be adopted) saying it would no longer approve child care centres on heavily trafficked roads until a full risk analysis of lead and other airborne contaminants has been completed. We hope they won't be missing soil and dust lead. If the lead is already there, the airborne lead is just adding to the contamination. Lead is just one reason not to have child-care centres on busy roads. For the full story, the Total Environment Centre's fact sheet on "Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles in Sydney" can be purchased by posting a $2 cheque to TEC,2nd Floor, 362 Kent Street Sydney, 2000. Enclose a stamped, self-addressed business envelope.
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Updated 14 November 2012