Tests reveal coal dust at Tea Gardens

THE holiday village of Tea Gardens is the latest frontier in the Hunter's coal-dust debate.

An analysis of dust from the town has revealed it contained coal, although the area is not traditionally associated with the effects of mining.

Raymond Terrace GP Nigel Ince and his wife Jenny Perkins discovered the dust soon after moving into their Marine Drive home six months ago.

Dr Ince submitted a sample for microscopic testing at a Newcastle pathology laboratory.

"Every couple of days we sweep and it's there. When it rains it's on the car," he said.

"I was interested to see if it was road dust because we are adjacent to the road but, no, they said coal dust."

He said he had an open mind about its origin.

"It's hard to say. What I do know is that when you are on the beach you can sometimes see a greyish cloud coming up from Newcastle," he said.

The Office of Environment and Heritage's head of climate and atmospheric science, Matthew Riley, said pinpointing the origin of dust was a complex science.

"Dust can travel a very long way but it's very difficult to determine exactly where it comes from," he said.

"This is one of the reasons why we are undertaking a very detailed study in the Upper Hunter to try and find out the most likely source of PM2.5 [particulate matter less than 2.5 microns]."

The closest mining operations to Tea Gardens are the Duralie mine, about 40 kilometres away, and the Stratford mine, about 60 kilometres away.

A spokesman for the mines said they operated within strict environmental guidelines.

"In the absence of any other reports from much closer neighbours perhaps new samples should be taken and tested by an independent lab experienced in these procedures," he said.

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