Environmental alliance studies coal dust

DUST-UP: Coal Terminal Action Group spokeswoman Zoe Rogers.  Picture: Peter Stoop
DUST-UP: Coal Terminal Action Group spokeswoman Zoe Rogers. Picture: Peter Stoop

GROWING concerns over the health impacts of coal dust have prompted an alliance of 14 Hunter community and environmental groups to take matters into its own hands.

It will lead an independent study of the dust created by coal trains and coal piles, engaging experts to monitor air quality along rail corridors and in surrounding suburbs.

It will also engage experts to analyse existing air quality monitoring data.

The parameters of the study will be discussed at the first Community Steering Group meeting being held tonight at the Hunter Community Environment Centre.

Coal Terminal Action Group spokeswoman Zoe Rogers said initial investigations showed air quality had already exceeded national guidelines for acceptable levels in Stockton and Muswellbrook several times this year.

“People living along the coal corridor from the Upper Hunter through Newcastle suburbs are sick of living with unhealthy levels of dust and particle pollution,” Ms Rogers said.

“The Newcastle community has expressed concerns about air quality for decades, most recently in response to the T4 proposal.

‘‘We’ve waited long enough and have now decided to address these concerns ourselves.”

The fourth coal-loading terminal would double the volume of coal transported through Newcastle, resulting in 80 more coal train movements each day, 15 new large open-cut mines and an additional 120million tonnes of coal loaded and exported from Newcastle Harbour, Ms Rogers said.

Environmental sociologist and chair of the Hunter Dust and Health Study, Dr James Whelan, said the study would address critical questions not answered in the 1400-page Environmental Assessment Report prepared in relation to T4.

They include the level of fine particle pollution to which residents along the Hunter rail corridor and in suburbs close to Newcastle’s coal loading terminals are exposed; and the health impacts of current levels of fine particle pollution.

The Newcastle Herald was unable to obtain comment from a Port Waratah Coal Services spokesman last night.

To sign The Herald’s Great Cover Up campaign petition to get the Hunter’s coal wagons covered, click here.