Record coal mine air pollution in the Hunter Valley casts cloud over future of United Wambo

Published: December 12, 2018

The Hunter Valley is on track to record its worst air quality since monitoring began due to increasing levels of harmful particulate matter from coal mines.[1]

Five towns and villages in the Hunter are so far tracking this year to record particulate pollution PM10 levels exceeding national standards, according to data from the Office of Environment and Heritage.

So far, 2018 has been the worst recorded year for air quality since the Upper Hunter air quality monitoring network started measurements in 2012.

The concerning revelation comes at a time when the Independent Planning Commission is being asked to approve a new mine in the central Hunter Valley where air pollution is worst. The United Wambo project, near Jerrys Plains, will be the subject of a public meeting of  Independent Planning Commission in Singleton on Wednesday.

It also follows a letter that was sent in September this year signed by more than 100 people from the Hunter region, including 30 doctors, to the Ministers for Health and Environment asking them to visit and take action to improve air quality in the region.

Lock the Gate NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said the United Wambo expansion should not be allowed to go ahead because it would further threaten the health of residents in the region.

“People are already getting sick from sheer volume of air pollution the coal mines are creating in the Hunter,” she said.

“Lock the Gate will tell the Independent Planning Commission on Wednesday that cumulative air pollution already being experienced in the central Hunter is chronic and causing population harm.

“We urge the Commission to refuse approval to the United Wambo project which will substantially add to the overall load of particulate pollution in the area.”

Ms Woods said the way particulate matter was measured in the Hunter was also flawed.

“The air quality assessment being considered by the IPC uses 2014 as the year against which changes in air quality as a result of the new United Wambo super-pit are measured,” she said.

“But data from the Office of Environment and Heritage shows that for eight of the nine nearby air quality monitoring stations, PM10 pollution concentrations were lower in 2014 than the average of the last seven years.”

Recent Reachtell polling showed 84.2 per cent of Singleton and Muswellbrook residents who were questioned agreed that Hunter locals should not be subjected to air pollution levels from coal dust that exceed national thresholds. Close to 70% were strongly in agreement.

 

ENDS



Table: Annual PM10 concentrations at selected Hunter Valley air quality monitoring sites

 

Date

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018*

Singleton

22.3

23.3

21

19.3

19.3

20.8

24.6

Maison Dieu

25.8

25.8

22.7

20.4

20.4

23.1

28.2

Camberwell

26.4

27.8

24.6

22

24.5

27.4

31.8

Singleton Nth West

25.9

25.9

22.7

20.9

21.9

22.7

27.3

Mt Thorley

24.8

24.7

21.5

19.8

22.8

25.4

29.8

Bulga

18.7

19.2

17.7

15

16.1

17.2

21.1

Singleton Sth

19

20.2

18.3

16.9

18

19.4

23.4

Jerrys Plains

10.8

18.6

18.2

15.5

16.8

18

24.2

Warkworth

21.1

21.4

20.6

18.2

18.6

21.8

26.3

 

[1] The annual average PM10 standard was reduced to 25 micrograms per cubic metres in 2016, so the exceedances in red for the years before 2016 are anachronistic. Data obtained from OEH air quality monitoring website 6 December 2018. Annual averages are obtained by downloading daily average readings and deriving the average of these across each year. The 2018 data set is not yet complete and is an average of the days of 2018 until the date data was downloaded.

 



Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

connect

get updates


Content on this site is authorised by Georgina Woods for Lock the Gate Alliance, Lismore NSW.