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Dozens of Southall residents meet scientists investigating chemical exposure from Berkeley Group’s The Green Quarter

Dozens of residents from Southall have attended a meeting with two scientists from Imperial College London who will be researching residents’ exposure to chemicals from Berkeley Group’s The Green Quarter development on what was once known as Southall Gasworks.

In recent years, residents near The Green Quarter, which was also previously called Southall Waterside, have raised health concerns following the development of the brownfield land.

The two scientists from Imperial, Holly Walder PhD student in Environmental Research Group and Dr Ian Mudway senior lecturer in the School of Public Health met with residents yesterday (16 April 2023) at the Dominion Centre in Southall to discuss their work and how residents can get involved.

Over a period of a month, an initial 50 samples of the air will be taken across Southall at locations outside residents homes and public areas.  This will then be followed up over the summer and autumn and the results from the tests will be provided during 2024.

The surveys are expected to start within the next four to six weeks.

Dr Ian Mudway told EALING.NEWS that there is great interest in the work being down. “The room is fully oversubscribed. Clearly it’s a very live issue in the area and the involvement and investment from the community is a fantastic place to start from because you can’t do this without their input.”

Dr Mudway revealed that Southall is the first place in the country using new technology to investigate the air quality in Southall. “This is new technology being deployed ambiently for the first time. This is a new method of doing passive sampling and a new way of looking at the chemical signatures.”

Dr Mudway added: “It’s not doing what previous environmental officers have done. it’s very different. This allows us not only to look at the site but looking at other locations which may be contributing chemical pollution into the environment.”

Local campaigner group, Clean Air for Southall and Hayes (CASH) has been highlighting the issue for many years as well as trying to raise it with Ealing Council and national authorities for a full investigation.

Angela Fonso, co-ordinator of the Clean Air For Southall and Hayes said: “Obtaining scientific evidence which may identify a unique chemical signature for the Green Quarter could be a significant step forward for the CASH campaign in gaining recognition that excavation of contaminated soil and construction has caused significant health effects.”

Ms Fonso said she had contacted all Southall councillors along with Ealing Council’s environmental protection manager and others at Ealing Council to attend the meeting but only residents were there.

One Southall resident told EALING.NEWS: “We never see our elected Ealing Labour councillors and yet again today with such an important meeting they were no where to be seen Surely at least one of them could have turned up to find out more? It just shows they don’t seem to care about residents and the air we breath.”

In 2020, The Guardian did a report on the Southall Gasworks site – Is my neighbourhood ‘poisoning’ me? Living in the shadow of a gasworks redevelopment

Ms Fonso said despite assurances from Ealing Council, residents feel little is done for them. “A member of CASH regularly detects noxious fumes when walking along the Grand Union towpath along the boundary of the site and another member of the group recently experienced a strong solvent like odour in front of Berkeley Group’s hoarding on Beaconsfield Road which caused throat irritation and nausea.

“Despite regularly reporting odour incidences to the environmental protection officer, the complainant is never informed how and when their notification of odour nuisance is investigated. We are disappointed that our ward councillor and leader of Ealing Council Peter Mason and Ealing Council have consistently failed to protect a vulnerable community.”

Ms Fonso added: “After years of gasworks production, the soil at the site was highly contaminated with chemicals harmful to human health. Soil excavation caused these chemicals to become airborne. Benzene which is carcinogenic and naphthalene, possibly carcinogenic were detected at high levels during air quality monitoring. Public Health England in 2019 said that naphthalene levels needed to be reduced as a matter of urgency. Despite soil remediation, residents living on the Green Quarter will never be allowed to have fruit and vegetable patches on the site.”

Neil Reynolds, chair of Ealing Green Party told EALING.NEWS: “It is good news that Imperial College are researching the effects that Southall residents have endured from the redevelopment of the gasworks. The lack of proper monitoring by the authorities has been one of a long list of failings. I hope the government and council are paying attention and take action as a result.”

On its website promoting The Green Quarter, Berkeley Group says: “The Green Quarter by Berkeley is one of the biggest regeneration projects in West London that is transforming sites into a sustainable, unique and nature-rich place where communities thrive. With nature and biodiversity at its heart, residents at The Green Quarter can enjoy acres of green open spaces, including two new parks, wetlands, beautifully landscaped gardens and new community areas.”

EALING.NEWS contacted Berkeley Group for a comment.

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