An analysis of air pollution monitoring by the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority during 2015 has identified several locations where particle pollution concentrations exceed the national standards.
Particle pollution causes a range of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses and contributes to the premature death of more than 3,000 Australians each year. There is no ‘safe’ concentration below which particle pollution does not cause adverse health impacts.
Coal mining is responsible for almost half of annual national coarse particle (PM10) emissions. Coarse particle pollution from coal mines has doubled in the last five years and trebled in the last decade. Fine particles (PM2.5) primarily result from combustion processes. Major sources include coal-fired power stations, motor vehicles and wood heaters.
Australia’s nine environment ministers agreed on new particle pollution standards on 15 December 2015 and now have an obligation to implement measures to ensure air quality as good as or better than these new standards. In many parts of NSW, particle concentrations exceeded the new national standards during 2015.
“We call on NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman to commit to controlling particle pollution in 2016,” said Environmental Justice Australia researcher Dr James Whelan.
“Controlling coal dust emissions from uncovered stockpiles and wagons would be a great start.”
Fine particles (PM2.5)
- The new national air pollution standards for fine particles (PM2.5) are an annual average concentration of 8 micrograms per cubic metre (mg/m3) and a 24 hour average of 25mg/m3.
- During 2015, 24 hour average concentrations exceeded the national standard at 12 of the 22 locations where PM2.5 is monitored.
- The highest 24 hour average concentrations were recorded in Chullora (37.2), Rozelle (33.4) Liverpool (32.2), Wollongong (31.6), Muswellbrook (31.2), Stockton (30.9) and Carrington (30.7).
- Annual PM2.5 average concentrations have exceeded the new national standard in 8 locations: Liverpool, Chullora, Earlwood, Carrington. Stockton, Prospect, Muswellbrook and Campbelltown West.
- The highest annual average (9.63mg/m3) was recorded in the Newcastle suburb of Stockton, which also recorded the greatest number of exceedances (3).
Course particles (PM10)
- The new national standards for PM10 are an annual average of 25mg/m3 and a 24 hour average of 50mg/m3. Environment Ministers from Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory refused to endorse this standard and committed their states to achieving 20mg/m3 , consistent with expert health advice.
- The standard for 24 hour average PM10 concentrations was exceeded at 40 of the state’s 43 monitoring locations during 2015.
- The highest 24 hour concentration of PM10 (145.1mg/m3) was recorded at Wagga Wagga North. This was most likely caused by agricultural activities.
- Newcastle suburbs recorded some of the highest 24 hour concentrations of PM10 in the state: Stockton (101.4), Mayfield (84.7), Carrington (80.6), Wallsend (77.5), Newcastle (70.4) and Beresfield (64.9). Sources of PM10 in Newcastle include uncovered coal wagons and export terminals.
- In the Hunter Valley, more than 90% of PM10 comes from open cut coal mines. All 14 monitoring sites in the Valley recorded exceedances of the 24 hour average, with the highest concentrations recorded at Camberwell (86.7), Singleton (85.3), Mt Thorley (85.2), Merriwa (83) and Singleton South (82.5)
- The state’s most frequent exceedances of the 24 hour average were recorded at Stockton (65), Camberwell (11), Mt Thorley (7) and Maison Dieu (5).
For further information, contact EJA researcher Dr James Whelan 0431 150 928
All monitoring data was sourced from the NSW EPA: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/AQMS/search.htm
The full data set is available from EJA on request, including tables.