Hunter air quality crisis: health tests of children required

Responding to the release of a worrying report on coal dust pollution in Newcastle, Greens MP and healthy communities spokesperson Cate Faehrmann has joined with Newcastle Greens Councillor Michael Osborne to release a 5 point plan to combat harmful particulate pollution. The plan includes an industry funded independent health study and measures to provide better protection to people living within 500 metres of coal infrastructure.

The report Coal dust in our suburbs: A community-led study of particle pollution in Newcastle and the Lower Hunter coal train corridorprepared by the Coal Terminal Action Group Dust and Health Steering Group, released today, shows unacceptably high levels of particulate pollution near coal lines and coal stockpiles in the Hunter region.

“The study confirms that air quality in parts of the Hunter has reached crisis point. A firm commitment by the O’Farrell government to bring air pollution in the Hunter under control is needed today,” said Ms Faehrmann.

“This study leaves no room for doubt that the government’s blind loyalty to the coal industry is negatively impacting on the Hunter community’s quality of life, particularly on people’s health.

“The evidence contained in this report shows the government should immediately commission a rigorous and independent health study, funded by industry, into the impacts of coal dust pollution on people’s health, particularly children’s.

“The government must immediately suspend the development application process for the proposed fourth coal loader in Newcastle.

“This confirms that people living near rail lines used by coal trains are exposed to dangerous levels of coal dust pollution. Covering coal wagons is something the government can commit to ensuring the coal industry does today. It’s a no-brainer.

“Action to control coal dust from stockpiles is also urgently required.

“The Premier needs to come out today and give a commitment to cleaning up the air in Newcastle and other parts of the Hunter within two years,” said Ms Faehrmann.

Newcastle Greens Councillor Michael Osborne said: “Newcastle residents have been let down by Sydney-centric state governments who have failed to properly assess the cumulative health and environmental impacts of approving ad-hoc developments in the Port.

“The NSW Government must make a commitment that we will have clean air in Newcastle and then back up those plans with strong regulation on polluting industries,” Cr Osborne said

 “Clear the Air” – The Greens Five-Point Plan for the Hunter

1. A rigorous and independent health study, funded by industry, into the impacts of coal particle pollution on the community, particularly children, living within 1km of rail lines used by coal trains and the Newcastle Port.

2. An immediate suspension of the assessment for a fourth coal loader in Newcastle.

3. Covering up of all coal wagons across NSW by the end of June 2013.

4. Covering of all coal stockpiles at the Newcastle Port.

5. Commitment to a Clean Air Action Plan for the Hunter region. This plan would outline concrete steps the government and industry will take to bring air quality in the Hunter to within national standards by 2015.

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