Community groups today announced their plans to monitor air quality along the West Moreton rail system to assess particle pollution from coal mines and trains. Their announcement comes in the wake of the ‘Western Metropolitan Rail Systems Coal Dust Monitoring Program’ report released by the Queensland Government yesterday.
The South Queensland Coal Health Action Network (SCAN), an alliance of community groups concerned about the health impacts of coal mining and transportation, will begin testing at a number of locations in the coming months, including Brisbane, Ipswich, and near South East Queensland coal mines.
“The community is left with no choice but to do it ourselves, as our concerns about the health impacts of coal dust are not being taken seriously by government or industry,” said SCAN spokesperson Ms Hannah Aulby.
“Recent monitoring by the Queensland Department of Science on behalf of the coal industry only highlights the need for further testing,” said Ms Aulby. “The study was paid for by industry, is not independently peer reviewed, and does not take into account short term spikes as coal trains pass.”
“Before accepting any research to inform policy, the Queensland Government must subject it to independent peer-review by three suitably qualified and neutral scientific experts,” she said. When an independent expert was commissioned to review a similar study of pollution from coal trains in the Hunter Valley, that study was found to contain major errors.
“The Western Metropolitan Coal Dust report only reports on 24 hour average concentrations at each location and makes no mention of short term 'spikes' as coal trains pass. Short-term exposure to elevated particle pollution causes adverse health impacts.”
“The Queensland Resources Council considers these results reliable although the recent monitoring occurred during one wet month. Monitoring results will always be considerably lower during wet weather. Further monitoring during dry weather periods must now be undertaken over various seasons of the year.”
“QRC’s media statements draw attention to the different levels of pollution associated with different types of train. This is a distraction from the real problem,” said Ms Aulby. “Community groups need to know how particle concentrations recorded when coal trains pass through our residential areas compare to concentrations when no trains are present. Coal trains are a recognised source of particle pollution.”
“We expect the Qld government to put community health first and conduct the most rigorous and independent assessment possible. Particle pollution kills more Australians than car crashes, so the Qld Government must take any and all steps to minimise particle pollution.
The South Queensland Coal Health Action Network is a community alliance including Rosewood District Protection Organisation, the Oakey Coal Action Alliance and the Lock the Gate Alliance.