Calls for increased action on Hunter Valley air quality

Hunter Valley residents have called for action to improve air quality following high particulate matter concentrations over the weekend.

The Upper Hunter Air Quality network’s Muswellbrook monitor issued an alert after readings of 2.5 particulate matter early Sunday morning, according to The Herald.

This comes after a number of similar alerts last month for concentrations that exceeded size ten.
However, the Department of Environment blamed wood heater smoke, rather than mining operations, for high readings.

Despite this, the Singleton Healthy Environment Group (SHEG) questioned if wood smoke is simply used to mask the issue of pollution from mines and power stations.

"It’s not much of an excuse to say it’s just wood smoke when they know there are major pollution issues associated with mines and power stations," group spokeswoman Carol Russell told The Herald.

Russell said the high number of recent alerts also demonstrates the need for a broader health study in the Hunter region.

Last month, a jump was recorded in the number of residents with respiratory problems.

Singleton doctor Tuan Au said there has been a noticeable increase in complaints.

SHEG also called for the air quality network to broaden its range of pollutant monitoring.

There’s no doubt that the network is a good thing but it is not monitoring other pollutants that we know are in our airshed," Russell said.

The monitoring network is currently made up of fourteen air quality stations, with the Department of Environment saying that it may consider additional monitors.

“The Office of Environment and Heritage has always been aware that in order for the network to remain effective in monitoring regional air quality that current site locations and/or the establishment of new air monitoring locations will need to be regularly reviewed and considered with advice and input from the network advisory committee," a spokesperson said.

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