O’Farrell ends 2012 with bad air report

Community groups in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley are calling on Premier Barry O’Farrell to tackle the region’s air pollution crisis after a comprehensive review of air pollution monitoring during 2012 revealed more than 200 exceedances of national and international pollution standards.

“Around Australia, New Years Eve is a time for smokers and people with other unhealthy habits to resolve that they will do something about it, and at the very least, not make it worse,” said Coal Terminal Action Group spokesperson Mr John Hayes. “We’re calling on Premier O’Farrell to face facts that the coal industry is a creating a serious health problem in the Hunter and to say a decisive NO in 2013 to a fourth coal terminal in Newcastle.”

“Approving a fourth coal terminal for Newcastle in conjunction with other coal expansion would double air pollution by doubling the number of coal trains and doubling coal mining in the Hunter Valley,” said Mr Hayes. “Health standards are set to protect community health and should not be broken, and certainly not more than 200 times a year.”

“The results are shocking and we certainly don’t want to see this situation worsen in 2013.”

During 2012, the network of 17 air pollution monitors in the Hunter Valley registered 115 exceedances of the national standard for PM10. Particle pollution contributes to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, asthma, hospital admissions and premature death. Ten of the EPA’s 17 monitoring stations in the Upper and Lower Hunter recorded levels up to 88.7μgm-3, almost double the national standard of 50μgm-3. A monitoring station installed in suburban Stockton by Orica Chemicals following their 2011 pollution event has registered regular exceedances of the PM10 standard.

Some of the region’s monitoring sites also record concentrations of PM2.5 (particles of up to 2.5 microns in diameter). These finer particles are even more harmful to health than PM10. The World Health Organisation recommends that developed nations adopt an ‘interim target’ for PM2.5 of 15μgm-3(micrograms per cubic metre).*

During 2012, the five sites that record PM2.5 in the Hunter registered 96 exceedances of this target. The Muswellbrook monitoring station recorded 61 exceedances, with levels reaching 26.4μgm-3 in mid-October, almost double the World Health Organisation standard.

“The Premier should be saying what his government will do to fix air quality in the Hunter, and reject outright a fourth coal terminal that can only make air pollution even worse for the people who live here.

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