Newcastle pollution levels set to increase by 35%

Community groups in Newcastle and the Hunter today called on the NSW Government to reject the proposed fourth coal terminal, presenting evidence that the increased pollution would push already high concentrations of particle pollution well over the national standard. Submissions on the ‘Preferred Project Report’ for T4 close today, ahead of Planning Assessment Commission hearings early 2014.

“In a city where most people fear the health impacts of coal dust and live with the reality of asthma and coal-coated homes, the proposed terminal will increase particle pollution concentrations by up to one-third,” said Coal Terminal Action Group Dust and Health Committee coordinator Ms Fee Mozeley.

The T4 assessment demonstrates that PM10 concentrations will increase by up to 15 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3) during construction, 17.9μg/m3 while construction and operation coincide and 6.8 μg/m3 during operation of the terminal. This means an increase of up to 35%. Every increase of 10 μg/m3 increases health impacts by 1-3% throughout the exposed community.

“The New South Wales Government must act urgently to improve air quality in the Hunter. A responsible first step would be to postpone the assessment of the proposed fourth coal terminal until particle pollution in Newcastle is reduced to below the standards set to protect human health.”

“The NSW Government recently invested half a million dollars in the Lower Hunter Particle Characterisation Study to assess the levels and sources of PM10 pollution. We urge Newcastle MP Tim Owen, Premier O’Farrell and the NSW Government to wait for the results of this study before assessing a massive development that will significantly worsen pollution.”

“Newcastle already experiences pollution levels high enough to shorten life and inflict a range of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses on Newcastle residents,” said Ms Mozeley.

“With the additional pollution caused by the construction and operation of T4, pollution levels will exceed the standard regularly at all monitoring sites,” she said.

Annual average PM10 concentrations exceeded the World Health Organisation standard in seven of the last ten years at monitoring sites in Newcastle. The new monitoring station in Stockton regularly records exceedances of the national standard for 24 hour average PM10 concentrations.

Local residents and community groups funded and conducted two air pollution monitoring studies during 2013. The first identified PM10 levels up to 50% higher than the national standard at several suburban houses in suburbs close to coal stockpiles and train lines. The second confirmed that particle concentrations increase by up to 1200% as coal trains pass, with unloaded coal trains causing the highest levels of pollution. These studies were the first of their kind in Australia and are now being replicated by concerned residents in the coal-affected communities of Mackay, Brisbane and South East Queensland.

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