A carcinogenic gas has been spewing from the exhaust stacks of a medical supplies company on the northern beaches since 2002, the report disclosed. In addition, Birchgrove Park, where the rich and famous pay millions for the views, is contaminated with heavy metals and carcinogens.
Pittwater Council ordered Unomedical, which makes sterile disposable equipment for operating theatres, to stop using its sterilizing unit after discovering that untreated ethylene oxide, classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization, had been pumped untreated across the northern beaches from the stacks in Mona Vale, for years.
Unomedical had failed to install thermal oxidizing equipment in its stacks, which would have filtered the gas, a spokesman for the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change said.
At Birchgrove, Leichhardt Municipal Council commissioned a scientific report last July that found parts of the park, which used to be a waste dump, had: lead concentrations 1.5 times the level accepted by the Environment Protection Authority as safe for public open space, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - a carcinogenic compound - at 3.3 times the acceptable level and high levels of contaminants in fill soil.
The report's strong recommendation for exhaustive testing of the whole park has not been followed up, prompting residents to accuse the council of putting children's health at risk. The park contains a playground and sports fields, and is popular with dog walkers.
The investigation was undertaken before five controversial light poles were installed in the park, a plan that attracted the ire of Louisa Road celebrities such as Judy Davis.
Since the 1980s, the road that once looked out on shipyards and heavy industry has become the home to Sydney's cultural elite, including David Williamson, Peter Carey, Bruce Beresford, John Singleton, the musicians Glenn Shorrock and James Morrison, and the actors Colin Friels, Serge Lazareff and Judy Morris. One house there sold for $5.36 million in 2001.
Suddenly, that does not sound like a good buy anymore.