For the past three years we’ve been telling Ealing Council and the Berkeley Group, as well as the Environment Agency and Public Health England, that this development on contaminated land is a ticking timebomb in our community and may be the most serious public health crisis facing the UK. Despite our complaints, no enforcement action has been taken to stop work. There is no independent air quality monitoring of the site and there has been no investigation into rising rates of asthma among children at local schools.
We’re now taking legal action to stop this social and environmental injustice.
In 2019 CASH ran a crowdfunding campaign (see below) in order to instruct leading environmental lawyers to take action against the Berkeley Group to stop the poisoning of our community by the gasworks site.
The aim is to bring an action for major breaches of environmental law and public nuisance and obtain compensation for innocent families whose lives and health have been blighted by the Southall Waterside development. (Read more).
Thanks to the generosity and support of local people, we raised enough money to obtain expert legal advice and will update on the progress of this soon.
The authorities don’t dispute there’s a smell but say it is “unlikely to pose a risk to the health” of local people, based on air quality monitoring data by Atkins, a consultant paid by the Berkeley Group. They say Atkins data shows levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, a known carcinogen, naphthalene and cyanide are safe. The World Health Organization says there is no safe level of benzene and children and the elderly are especially vulnerable.
Many people have told CASH they link the smell to nosebleeds, eye irritation, breathing problems and more serious conditions, including cancer. Dozens of people have said their health has deteriorated since work began and the number is rising fast. “I feel like my community is killing me,” said one.
Studies have shown that BAME people may be especially vulnerable to these VOCs because of a G6PD deficiency, most common in parts of Africa and Asia.
The Atkins methodology for monitoring the Southall Waterside development only measures average pollution levels but not spikes caused by harmful chemicals being moved around by air currents. An independent expert who put his own sensors at the site to monitor these spikes told CASH the readings were the most alarming he had ever seen. The pollution caused by building on the contaminated gasworks site comes on top of levels of air pollution that are already unacceptably high in one of the most deprived areas of the UK.
Studies link air pollution to heart and lung disease, cancer and poor lung and brain development in children, among other health problems.