A group in the Hunter Valley want 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 should have the same protection as those living near nuclear sites, such as the Lucas Heights reactor, The Newcastle Herald reported.
‘‘It would make a lot more sense [if air pollution was measured like radiation]. That way people could take immediate precautions to protect their health when the air quality was bad,’’ group spokesman Jorge Tiaskal said.
The group has spent the last month monitoring alerts from the UHAQMN and found 123 alerts were issued, including seven over the past week.
‘‘This is a lot of alerts considering that the 24-hour average health limits are not supposed to be exceeded more than five times per year,’’ Tiaskal said.
‘‘We are really only scratching the surface of the health impacts.’’
‘‘[The network] is definitely a step in the right direction – now we want something done to improve air quality,’’ Tiaskal said.
An Office of Environment and Heritage spokeswoman said the network issued alerts as a precautionary measure when air particle levels reached a certain point.
‘‘However, national standards for particles are based on 24-hour calendar-day averages and not all alerts are an actual exceedence of the national air-quality standard for particles,’’ she said.
‘‘The [network] sites are strategically located in population centres and near mining operations. Dust alerts are not unusual from those network sites located close to mines,’’ she said.
Australian Mining reported yesterday that two high-dust particle readings reported by the system were false and caused by power outages.