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Project Team Reports on Rosebery Concerns

03 April 2009
The project team investigating health concerns raised by a group of Rosebery residents has presented its report to the Director of Public Health and Director of the Environment Protection Authority. To view the Executive Summary click here The Deputy Director of Public Health and Chair of the Project Team, Dr Chrissie Pickin, said the project team had compiled its report after receiving and reviewing the final report from independent toxicologist, Professor Brian Priestly. "Professor Priestly found that the evidence gathered during the investigation did not support the belief that the residents' health problems are related to exposure to metals in the environment. "The project team's report similarly concludes that the evidence gathered does not indicate any significant health risk to the residents in question or to the Rosebery community in general. "While elevated levels of some metals were found in the surface soil of the affected properties, no link between the soil and the residents' health concerns has been established. No further testing of soil or water around the residents properties is considered necessary at this stage. "We acknowledge that it has been a difficult time for the residents involved, however, the findings should come as some reassurance," Dr Pickin said. The project team comprises officers from Public Health and the EPA and has been investigating concerns raised by a group of Rosebery residents who believe the seepage water on their properties is connected to their health concerns. A range of environmental testing has been undertaken. The results of the testing were taken into consideration with all the available data from health testing. Professor Priestly, the Director of the Australian Centre for Human Health Risk Assessment, was called on to provide expert advice to the team. Professor Priestly's recommendations were released publicly last month and his report was sent to the residents involved. Dr Pickin said the project team had spent four months examining the concerns and a number of broader recommendations have been developed. "The project team is recommending that the Public and Environmental Health Service provide relevant health professionals with information on how to investigate health concerns that relate to environmental exposures. "We have had serious concerns in this case about the way some tests for metals appear to have been self-initiated without the benefit of advice from a clinician to help interpret the results. "Unfortunately, this led to a number of mistaken beliefs and anxiety among residents and a lack of faith in the advice from professional Public Health/EPA officers despite every effort being made to be open and transparent. "I want to reassure the community that exhaustive efforts have been made by the Project Team to address all the issues raised and to get to the bottom of the concerns," Dr Pickin said." "What this process has identified to us is the need for health professionals working in isolated communities to have the necessary support and information available to them if and when residents raise similar concerns in the future. "The EPA will continue working with the OzMinerals Rosebery mine to ensure that ongoing dust management is in accordance with best practice and that worked out areas of the mine are rehabilitated. The current dust fallout monitoring program will continue. "Approaches will also be made to the local council about whether improvements can be made to drainage in the affected residents' yards. "We will continue to urge the residents to follow up their health concerns with their individual GPs, as we understand they are a cause of stress and anxiety," Dr Pickin said. The Project Team's report has been provided to the residents. Due to the need to maintain clinical confidentiality, it will not be released publicly by the Department. However, a copy of the Executive Summary is available at www.dhhs.tas.gov.au or www.epa.tas.gov.au