The Hunter has an air quality crisis. It’s time the government did something about it.
A study into air quality just released by community groups shows unacceptably high levels of particulate pollution near coal lines and coal stockpiles in the Hunter region.
Key findings of the report, Coal dust in our suburbs: A community-led study of particle pollution in Newcastle and the Lower Hunter coal train corridor prepared by the Coal Terminal Action Group include:
- National Pollutant Inventory standards are being exceeded regularly, including all five out of five test days at the Carrington site, when normally only five exceedences per year are considered normal to account for bushfires, dust storms and so on.
- Suburbs closer to industrial infrastructure, including coal loaders and train lines, experience worse air quality (PM10 and PM2.5) compared with the existing EPA monitor in Cooks Hill.
- Average PM10 levels are generally two to four times higher in Mayfield, Mayfield East, Tighes Hill and Carrington than at Cooks Hill.
The study confirms that air quality in parts of the Hunter has reached crisis point. An urgent commitment by the O’Farrell government to bring air pollution in the Hunter under control is needed today. This study leaves no room for doubt that the government’s blind loyalty to the coal industry is negatively impacting on the Hunter community’s quality of life, particularly on people’s health.
People living near rail lines used by coal trains, coal trucks, coal stockpiles and loading areas are exposed to dangerous levels of coal dust pollution. Health impacts of the coal industry on residential areas include high rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, lung and kidney disease and increased asthma, wheezing and coughs in children. Scientific tests link coal dust to cancer and inhalation can cause permanent scarring of lung tissues.
We need to stand together and demand action for coal-affected communities. We should no longer sit back and accept that making people sick and diseased is just part of the way the coal industry does business in NSW.
The Greens have a simple plan - Clear the Air in the Hunter that the government can commit to today.
Clear the Air in the Hunter Plan
- A rigorous and independent health study, funded by industry, into the impacts of coal particle pollution on the community, particularly children, living within 1km of rail lines used by coal trains and the Newcastle Port.
- An immediate suspension of the assessment for a fourth coal loader in Newcastle.
- Covering up of all coal wagons across NSW by the end of June 2013.
- Covering of all coal stockpiles at the Newcastle Port.
- Commitment to a Clean Air Action Plan for the Hunter region. This plan would outline concrete steps the government and industry will take to bring air quality in the Hunter to within national standards by 2015.
Please write to the Premier, Health Minister and Planning Minister below.