Hunter health fears over dust levels

Community groups in the Hunter Valley will start to independently monitor air quality along the Hunter coal corridor to assess levels of pollution.

The Coal Terminal Action Group has raised funds to buy its own industry-standard air quality monitoring equipment and plans to install the system at 10 locations between Newcastle and Rutherford, The Newcastle Herald reported.

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

The group wants to study how much particle pollutions exists, where it comes from and how far away from the coal corridor it travels.

‘‘The government should be doing this work but for whatever reason they won’t,’’ he said.

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.

A new pollution analysis suggests residents in the Hunter are being exposed to some toxins at levels more than 100 times higher than they were a decade ago.

The Newcastle Herald  reports analysis of National Pollution Inventory data shows the number of pollution generating industries rose from nine to 16 between 2001 and 2011 while the number of pollutants increased from 35 to 38.

The Herald reports that while some emissions like arsenic, lead and mercury have decreased, others have risen
Ammonia emissions increased 188per cent, benzene by 600per cent, sulphur dioxide by 312per cent and carbon monoxide by 6per cent.

Earlier this 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 should have the same protection as those living near nuclear sites, such as the Lucas Heights reactor.

Image: railway

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