Amongst good wishes I received for 2010 was an email from a respected Professor of Medicine and teacher from my medical school days.
In his email he wrote (in relation to my recently concluded lawsuit with Gunns Limited regarding the Burnie woodchip piles) ; “To my mind your right to speak out is not in question, but we need the science too.”
Quite right I say.
For me, the principal problem was that Gunns Limited were asked by public health and environmental authorities to arrange the study of the woodchip piles. They got a reputable scientist but there was clearly a conflict of interest given that this scientist was paid by the very company whose activities he was investigating.
The criticisms made by Dr Trevor Steele of the (Gunns commissioned) report and it’s methodology seem to me to be damning. The report for Gunns also has a false statement claiming the inability of Legionella organism to survive long distances in aerosols and dust.
Good scientific reporting, my Professor taught me in medical school, requires declaration of potential conflicts of interest, methodological clarity and rigor , accurate citing of previous research and expert peer review.
I am not convinced that these requirements were fulfilled in the Gunns commissioned report.
That the responsible authorities relied on such a report was disappointing and disillusioning.
The report was subsequently used to reassure the people of Burnie and to sue Dr Peter Pullinger and myself.
I look forward to the results of the current Health Department study with hope. To be credible the study must be rigorous, independent, transparent and peer reviewed.
In 2010 the people of Burnie deserve to have this long running issue settled by good science and appropriate public health measures, if necessary.