Greens reject coal dust report

The Greens have slammed a report by the Australian Rail Track Corporation that found coal trains do not have stronger associations with elevated dust.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation said no changes are required to reduce dust emitted from coal trains in the Hunter.

The report said that testing was conducted at Raymond Terrace Drive in Metford using an Osiris particulate matter monitoring device from 30 November 2012 to to 29 January 2013.

The monitoring program concluded that: “loaded coal trains operating on the Hunter Valley rail network, when measured at Metford, did not have a statistically stronger association with elevated particulate matter concentrations than other trains.”

But Greens spokeswoman Jan Davis said the results do not add up.

“These results are a complete contradiction to the studies community groups and the University of Newcastle have been involved in,” she said.

“I think studies done by the groups and the university are much more reliable.”

Davis said the ARTC should have appointed an independent body to undertake the testing, The Maitland Mercury reported.

“I don’t believe the ARTC findings are the true results and I don’t think they should be conducting the study given their involvement with the coal industry,” she said.

While the Coal Terminal Action Group says it will fund its own study of coal dust emissions in the region.

"We're planning a second study ourselves," spokesman James Whelan said.

"Our second study, and we'll be starting to fundraise for it next week, will be to look at the signature of a coal train.

"We're going to be monitoring explicitly along their coal corridor, and watching while the coal trains go by.

"We're going to do the study the EPA should've instructed the ARTC to do."

NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon warned the federal government to disregard the data when considering of the health impacts of coal dust on Hunter communities.

A Senate inquiry into the impacts of coal dust in Newcastle began earlier this year.

“The ARTC report is compromised by methodological shortcomings, has not been independently reviewed and fails to consider the cumulative health impacts of dust from coal stockpiles, mining and road and rail transport,” Rhiannon said.

“Combined action from federal and state governments to set proper standards, monitor air quality, cover coal wagons and reject new coal mining developments is the responsible course of action.”

Air quality in the Hunter has been an issue for residents for some time now as coal mining and haulage activity increased in the region.

“Communities in the Hunter Valley are increasingly worried about coal dust and its health impacts, especially with new coal mines and terminals,’’ Whelan said.

"Anybody who lives in Newcastle knows there is a blanketing of coal dust in many suburbs close to the coal loaders every day of the year, 365 days," Correct Planning and Consultation for Mayfield spokesperson John Hayes told The Newcastle Herald.

"There's a widespread view that spraying water and dust on the coal dust piles doesn't do much to suppress dust."

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