Coal Dust Free Streets community survey finds overwhelming support for covered wagons, stockpiles

Residents from Islington, Mayfield, Stockton and Tighes Hill gathered on Saturday afternoon at the Croatian Wickham sports club to tally up the results of a survey of attitudes toward coal dust and noise pollution, and the proposed fourth coal terminal.

The ‘Coal Dust Free Streets’ project is an Australia-first partnership between the Hunter Community Environment Centre and members and supporters of residents groups in Stockton, Mayfield, Islington and Tighes Hill and aims to both survey community opinion and strengthen networks to call for improved air quality and health. The results spoke volumes.

“It is quite clear that an overwhelming majority of residents want action on dust pollution,” said Islington Village Community Group spokesperson Terry McCauley.

Local residents in the four suburbs surveyed 1270 of their neighbours and nearby residents and found that:

  • 90% want world’s best practice dust control measures implemented (coal wagons, coal stockpiles and all stages of loading and unloading coal to be fully covered and regularly washed to prevent particulate pollution)
  • Only 20% support a fourth coal loader (T4) being built.

The strongest support for covering and regularly washing coal wagons and covering coal stockpiles was in Islington, where 93.2% of the 428 residents surveyed agreed it was time to take these actions to cut particulate pollution.

A third question was posed to 906 residents doing the survey in Tighes Hill, Islington and South East Mayfield asking if they believed there should be a curfew on coal train movements between 11pm and 5am to give residents a break from noise pollution and vibration. 69.8% of those surveyed agreed a curfew would be a good idea.

Meanwhile, 82.3% of residents polled in North Mayfield wanted a curfew on T4 construction if it is approved, and on Kooragang coal loading operations.

A further 92.1% of those surveyed in Islington wanted coal and freight trains diverted away from residential areas.

“Coal exports from Newcastle have grown sevenfold over the past 30 years, and if T4 is built and all four loaders are at full capacity that will be about twice current levels again – so thirteen or fourteen times the amount that was shipped back in 1984” said Hunter Community Environment Centre spokesperson Zane Alcorn.

“Residents living in suburbs near the rail lines and loaders clearly think that it is time for dust control measures to reflect the reality that this is a massive dusty industry positioned right on the doorstep of tens of thousands of people.”

“T4 is not wanted by the community, and the fact that it is proposed to be yet another uncovered terminal just adds insult to injury. We should be covering all existing terminals, not approving another huge uncovered terminal, to be serviced by yet more uncovered trains” said Mr Alcorn.