Tonight Australian Story begins the first of a 2 part investigation that asks “How clean and green is Tasmania?”
A local GP and a Sydney scientist join forces to solve an environmental riddle in Tasmania.
In 2000, local GP Dr. Alison Bleaney began noticing a rising rate of rare and unusual cancers amongst her patients at her practice in St. Helens on the North East coast.
With local oyster farmers worried about deformities suddenly appearing in their oysters Sydney marine ecologist Dr. Marcus Scammell was appointed by the Tasmanian Government to investigate.
Wondering if there might be a connection between ill health in her patients and the health of the oysters, Dr.
Bleaney contacted Dr. Scammell. Certain there was a problem with the water in the catchment, mostly likely related to aerial spraying of the timber plantations, they and two oyster farmers joined forces raising a red alert in a report to the Tasmanian government.
Discredited and accused of “unscientific quackery”, the group were undeterred. So concerned about what they believed was a serious environmental issue, they forked out tens of thousands of dollars of their own money to launch their own investigation.
The result of their investigation has confounded everyone’s expectations, including their own.
This isn’t the first time that Dr. Bleaney has put herself in the firing line for a cause that she believes in. On her first attempt to enjoy an idyllic rural posting, she unwittingly found herself and her family in the middle of a war zone at Stanley in the Falklands. Thrust into the role of defacto Hospital Administrator during the Falklands War she was revered as a local heroine for helping facilitate an Argentine surrender.
In 1989, Dr. Bleaney and her family moved to St Helens, Tasmania. “It was my ideal practice … there was really not much in the way of diseases here. There wasn’t much in the way of cancer. And then somewhere around about 2000, it dawned on me that really I was seeing an increase in all sorts of diseases that to me was quite unexpected andunexplainable,” reflects Dr. Bleaney on Australian Story.
Dr. Marcus Scammell says, “She’s doing in Tasmania what she did in the Falklands in 1982. She stepped right out in front of the firing line for what she believes in and she won’t stop ‘til she gets what she wants – no matter what the cost to her personally.”
Part One of this story airs tonight at 8pm on ABC1.