Bad Apple Bullies

Bad Apple school principals and departmental officers bully classroom teachers into ill health and out of work.

After a lot of rain in about 1988, black sticky stuff started oozing out of the ground at Camden High School, NSW.


Ex-Camden High School science teacher ALLEN POWELL: After about 1988 when we had a lot of rain here, stuff started oozing out of the ground that was black and kind of sticky-ish.

HAYDEN COOPER: He too had his worries at the time.

ALLEN POWELL: Virtually every child, every student in this school would have been exposed to whatever the contaminants are there, yep. At one, probably every single day that they were here.



 

 
Contact Jim Marsden, Lawyer
 
Cancer cluster haunts school built on gasworks, Hayden Cooper, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 23 July 2013

In 1995 the contaminants were discovered. They were buried and 'contained'.

HAYDEN COOPER: The contaminants weren't discovered until 1995.
 
 
The contaminants were buried and contained in 1996.
 
 
The school eventually moved in 2001 because of the toxic waste.
 
Reports from the time detail the long list of dangerous substances such as carcinogenic hydrocarbons, benzene and cyanide.
 
 
They were hidden for decades on the site while students went to school above.

ALLEN POWELL: These children at their most formative period of their development being exposed to this kind of stuff is criminal.
 
That's all there is to it.

 

Contact Jim Marsden, Lawyer
 
Cancer cluster haunts school built on gasworks, Hayden Cooper, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 23 July 2013

23 July 2013 : More than 10 ex-Camden High teachers and students have died. More than 30 have cancer. Several have had children with birth defects.

HAYDEN COOPER: Camden High is now fenced off but former science teacher Allen Powell recently showed the ABC the site of the old tar pits which were full of toxic waste before the school expanded over the top.


At the time most students thought nothing of it, that is until recently when they started getting sick.


JIM MARSDEN, LAWYER: Predominantly we've seen cancers, we've seen benign tumours, a lot of thyroid problems and we've actually had relatives of 16 per cent of the people in touch with us come forward and suggest that those people have died as a result of illnesses contracted at this site.

HAYDEN COOPER: His clients include the families of more than 10 students and teachers who have died, more than 30 who have cancers and several who now have children with birth defects.

JIM MARSDEN: If ultimately we find that a department or a number of departments are responsible and then going on from there has been illnesses caused as a result of these contaminations, yes, there should be actions because ultimately whoever is responsible must be held accountable.
 
 
Contact Jim Marsden, Lawyer
 
Cancer cluster haunts school built on gasworks, Hayden Cooper, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 23 July 2013

24 July 2013 : Allen Powell had his worries at the time. Now he wishes he had "made more noise".

Former science teacher Allen Powell worked at Camden High School in Western Sydney, New South Wales in the 1980s and '90s.

He says he had his worries about the school at the time.

"After about 1988 when we had a lot of rain here, stuff started oozing out of the ground which was black and sticky-ish."

The school was closed in 2001 after contamination was discovered in soil underneath classrooms.

The school was built on the site of a gasworks that had been in operation since 1911.

Dozens of former Camden High teachers and students have became ill and some have died.

"I'm really upset, very saddened by it. It's very distressing. I wish I'd made more noise, I feel guilty about it." Mr Powell said.

 

Lawyers say 70 people have joined an investigation into Camden High School to determine the cause of a range of recent illnesses.

The group includes people with various forms of cancer, brain tumours and children with birth defects.

Some members of the group represent former teachers and students who have died.

Lawyer Jim Marsden says the complaints could lead to a class action against the NSW Education Department.

"Ultimately whoever is responsible must be held accountable," Mr Marsden said.

Several former students blame their illnesses on the old gasworks site.

The contamination at the high school was discovered in 1995 and contained the following year.

Reports from the era include lists of chemical substances which were found such as benzine, banzoapyrene, cyanide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).

 

"There was always an egg smell and I always thought that the Bunsen burner gas taps had been left on or leaking, but I didn't know until after I left school that this was a gasworks,"  former student Rachel Dowling said.

Ms Dowling attended the school from 1985 and now has thyroid cancer.

 

But research director at the NSW Cancer Council, Freddy Sitas, has urged caution.

"These investigations can go on for three or four years, and nine out of 10 of them turn out to be nothing.

"So it is important not to raise expectations when investigating a cluster and not to call it a cluster when it is not so."

 

 
 

1 August 2013 : 195 former teachers and students of Camden High have now joined the potential class action.

Former Camden High School teachers and students are involved in a potential class action.

They believe cases of cancer, tumors and birth defects may have been caused by exposure to toxic chemicals at the school.

 

Camden High School Art teacher Dale Hodges, 45, died in 2007 of thyroid and ovarian cancer.

Her partner Glenn Carson says Dale was fit, and had no family history of cancer.

"She trained hard, she worked hard, she wanted to live and she wanted to teach and it didn't happen," he said.

Ms Hodges taught at the school for 18 years.

For much of the time she taught in a classroom directly on top of the site of the former gasworks.

She kept records of the contamination uncovered in 1996.

The records include a letter from the Environmental Protection Authority warning of high levels of contamination.

The letter was addressed to the NSW Education Department.

Some remediation work was done a year later, but the school was not moved until 2001.

Mr Carson says it should have happened sooner.

"You turn up to your workplace thinking it's safe - which is what a workplace should be - but obviously this workplace wasn't safe," he said.

"We just need answers.

"You need to be able to find out why in '96 they didn't do something more drastic than wait until '97 for a start, wait another year before they did anything at all, then wait another four years until they got the land at Cawdor."

 

Lawyers are preparing a class action against the Education Department on behalf of a group of 195 people.

Camden High ex-student Leonie Curry, 41, is the lead plaintiff for the case.

Mrs Curry set up a Facebook page and was swamped with feedback from former students who suspect the contaminants at the site made them sick.

 

Those involved acknowledge that proving the cause of their illnesses may be impossible.

Nonetheless, Glenn Carson, who is still struggling with the death of his partner, wants an official inquiry.

"It'd be nice just to be able to find out what happened, why it happened and how it happened," he said.

"If it could've been prevented, why wasn't it prevented?"

 

Hundreds join potential class action as Camden High School cancer cluster fears multiply, Hayden Cooper and Chloe-Amanda Bailey, ABC NEWS, 1 August 2013    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-31/cancer-cluster-fears-multiply-at-camden-high-school-in-sydney/4856904