Independent expert confirms coal trains pollute

An independent expert report released today confirms community concerns in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley that coal trains are a significant source of particle pollution.

Professor Louise Ryan was engaged by the NSW Chief Scientist in mid-2013 after a leaked report indicated the Australian Rail Track Corporation had doctored the conclusions of their coal corridor pollution report.

“Professor Ryan’s re-analysis of the coal pollution study shows the community was right to raise these concerns,” said Hunter Community Environment Centre (HCEC) spokesperson Dr John Mackenzie.

“This analysis confirms what residents of the suburbs along the coal corridor have long known. Dangerous particle pollution increases significantly when trains pass through the residential areas where 14% of the Newcastle community live,” said Dr Mackenzie.

“A 10% increase in particle pollution means a corresponding increase in various respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses,” he said. “There’s no safe level of particle pollution.”

“The EPA has been covering up for the coal industry for too long and have failed to protect the community and environment. It’s time for Premier and Environment Minister to clean up this mess.”

Community groups throughout New South Wales are gathering signatures on their ‘Cover the Wagons’ petition, which will trigger a parliamentary debate later this year.

“Professor Ryan’s Report finally puts to rest the fiction that coal trains don’t increase pollution in our suburbs. Community pressure has exposed a pattern of denial and inaction by both the coal industry and the EPA and now it’s time to focus on solutions.”

Professor Ryan’s conclusions:

  • “There are clear and statistically significant elevations in particulate concentrations when a train passes by the monitoring station.”
  • “There is approximately a 10% increase in the various kinds of particulate measurements associated with freight and coal trains.”
  • “The effects were apparent and remained significant for all available particulate measures, including TSP, PM10, PM2.5 and PM1, especially for freight and coal trains (loaded or empty).”
  • “While our analysis has shown that the average air concentrations in particulate levels are fairly similar for both loaded and unloaded coal trains, the total aggregate exposure associated with a loaded coal train may be different than that for an unloaded coal train because the passing durations vary so much.”

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