Coal trains not a stronger contributor to emissions: ARTC

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

The Australian Rail Track Corporation's latest emissions monitoring report found coal trains do not have stronger associations with elevated particulates.

A report in September last year came to the same result but was labelled as ‘flawed’ by the Environmental Protection Authority, ABC reported.

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 latest round of monitoring expanded on the pilot monitoring program objectives aimed at determining whether trains operating on the Hunter Valley rail network are associated with elevated particulate matter concentrations and if loaded coal trains had a stronger association with elevated particulate matter concentrations than other trains on the network,” the ARTC said.

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.”

ARTC chief John Fullerton said he hoped people in the local community would read the report.

"What I encourage people to do is read that report and draw the conclusions, and recognise the conclusions that have been drawn in the report by an agency that's an expert in the field,” he said.

He added a future increase of coal train numbers may create the need for further studies.

“ARTC has provided the results of the monitoring to the NSW EPA and we will work with the Authority on what next steps are appropriate in line with our Environment Protection Licence,” he said.

However, 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."

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.

Late last year a group in the Hunter Valley called for dust-level alerts to be issued in the same way as nuclear radiation alerts.

The Hunter Valley Protection Alliance wants to see the current 24-hour rolling-average, which the Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network (UHAQMN) use to measure air pollution, replaced with real-time alerts.

The group believes people living in close proximity to open-cut mines and along haulage corridors should have the same protection as those living near nuclear sites, such as the Lucas Heights reactor.

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