Air pollution monitoring throughout New South Wales is the responsibility of the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority. The EPA announced in January 2016 that air pollution monitoring data would be available for four sites in the Namoi region. These sites are run by the companies that operate coal mines in the region.
Figure: Namoi region industry monitoring sites (source)
The Namoi region has several open cut coal mines: the Boggabri mine (owned by Idemitsu) and the
Rocglen, Maules Creek, Tarrawonga and Narrabri North mines (all owned by Whitehaven Pty Ltd.). Whitehaven is rehabilitating their Sunnyside mine.
Coal mines are the primary source of coarse particle pollution (PM10), contributing more than 90% of dust pollution in coal mining regions. Coarse and fine particle pollution cause respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses that include asthma attacks, hospital admission and premature death. There is no safe concentration or level of exposure to particle pollution.
New national standards for PM10 and PM2.5 were adopted by Australian governments in mid-December 2015. Implementing these standards requires expanded monitoring and improved reporting.
The new air pollution monitoring arrangements for the Namoi region have several shortcomings:
- Data access and integration
- Too few locations
- Industry self-monitoring that cannot be validated by the EPA
- Lack of integration with EPA monitoring data
- No ‘real time’ monitoring or alerts issued when pollution concentrations exceed the national standards.
The Upper Hunter Valley has an air quality monitoring network of 14 sites. Pollution monitoring results are instantly available from the EPA website. It is possible to instantly download data for any period (a day, a week or up to several years) for any/all pollutants for any/all locations.
Figure: Hunter Valley monitoring network map (source)
The Namoi industry monitoring network should be integrated into the NSW EPA system to ensure:
- Validation (trust)
- Instant access – any time / period, any pollutants, any locations
- Ease of analysis (one file rather than dozens)