Development approval has been controversially granted for a petrol station within 100m of two upcoming childcare facilities in Golden Bay, despite widespread concerns about potential benzene fumes.

The City of Rockingham and more than 100 other objectors opposed the mixed use project, primarily over concerns about benzene exposure.

But the Metro Outer Joint Development Assessment Panel this week approved the Talisker Bend plan, after initially rejecting it, with three in favour and two opposed.

The Rockingham council had objected on the grounds that it considered the “potential health impacts in terms of odour emissions, specifically from benzene exposure associated with the proposed service station, posed a risk to the community.”

Mayor Barry Sammels yesterday reiterated that council agreed with advice from the Department of Health, which sought a “precautionary approach to the siting of the service station in proximity to residential areas and child care centres to protect children’s health.”

The proposed childcare centres are 58m and 68m from the site.

But the JDAP noted that as part of the development conditions, the service station must incorporate technology known as stage one and stage two vapour recovery systems.

It relied on advice from a South Australian company called Land and Water Consulting — commissioned by the developer to assess the impact — which said vapour recovery systems would ensure that any benzene odours were at safe levels.

Land and Water Consulting’s James Fox said that when this technology was adopted, homes located 20m away would be subject to fumes that were 70 per cent within safe guidelines in the National Environment Protection (Air Toxics) Measure, while air at the childcare centres would fall 81 per cent within this standard.

The measure is unlikely to satisfy objectors, with many claiming there is no safe level of benzene exposure. The State Government weighed in, saying the new technology would decrease risk, but it fell short of ruling out risk.

A submission to the JDAP from Michael Lindsay, executive director, environmental health directorate, said combined studies shows that “at least a doubling risk of leukaemia for children living in close proximity to a petrol station” though it is understood this referred to servos which do not use VR technology.

He wrote the risk was further reduced by the fact children spent less time in childcare centres than at home.

“The use of VR2 will decrease the risk but the DoH cannot estimate by how much,” Dr Lindsay wrote. “Conclusion DoH supports a precautionary approach to siting petrol stations proximal to residential areas and child care centres to positively benefit children health. Without VR2 the risk is not acceptable. Should the development proceed, to decrease risk, VR2 controls should be installed as a minimum along with robust inspections and maintenance to ensure the effectiveness of the control.”

Extracted in full from: Approval granted for controversial Golden Bay petrol station | The West Australian