Air Quality Study Reveals Newcastle’s Pollution “Smoking Guns”

The results from the Lower Hunter Particle Characterisation Study released today by the NSW EPA pinpoints the sources of industrial air pollution in Newcastle and provides all the evidence needed for the EPA to embark on a targeted pollution reduction program, according to Greens candidate for the seat of Newcastle John Mackenzie.

Dr Mackenzie said that by focusing on both fine (PM2.5) and coarse particulates (PM2.5-10), it has provided a robust and complete air quality signature of the Newcastle area.

“The study gives us the long-awaited pollution smoking guns,” said Dr Mackenzie. “It has revealed the extraordinary contribution to particulate pollution from the Orica operations on Kooragang and the black carbon particles attributable to the city’s coal haulage industry, including the coal terminals.”

“This study has shown Newcastle to have an air quality signature characteristic of coastal cities worldwide in terms of natural particulates like sea spray and pollen, “said Dr Mackenzie. “But it also shows where Newcastle departs from the typical profile due to particle pollution from non-natural sources, especially from industrial sources at the Newcastle Port.”

“The exposure to excessive Ammonium Nitrate emissions being experienced by residents of Stockton and Mayfield is deeply concerning. Although the full health implications of these findings are not yet known, it is now clear there is a need for urgent action to bring that exposure within safe levels.”

The findings from a similar study by the EPA into the composition of visible black dust was also released today, and that found that the visible black dust in the port and rail suburbs is three times more likely to be coal than soot from diesel emissions or woodsmoke, and twice as likely to be coal than rubber.

Dr Mackenzie said “This study reinforces the Greens call for a national Air Pollution Control Act and a Commonwealth regulator, so that this kind of work can be extended to other pollution hotspots around the country. I’ll be campaigning for a nationally consistent approach to air pollution during the upcoming election.”

Dr Mackenzie said, “The innovative work on particle pollution characterisation is a landmark achievement, and demonstrates the kind of outcomes that are possible when industry, community, and government work together to find solutions to the complex issue of air pollution. Importantly, we now have an accepted evidence base that gives the EPA to act decisively and boldly in addressing particulate pollution in the Lower Hunter.”

“The Greens are committed to pollution reduction programs that aim to minimise air pollution at source,” said Dr Mackenzie. “Particle characterisation information allows this to be done with accuracy and evidence. The Greens will continue to argue for strict and enforceable limits in industry operating licenses, where the polluters themselves are financially responsible for the health and environmental costs of their pollution. Enforceable limits provide real incentives for ongoing improvements and the adoption of cleaner technologies, and works to bring air pollution back within safe levels of exposure, to the benefit of the entire community.”

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