THERE has been effort to discredit a study for the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) on dust from coal trains as part of a campaign for wagon covers.
These efforts ignore scientific studies conducted by many organisations that show air quality around the rail corridor is good and that coal trains are not having a significant impact.
Hunter miners live here, raise families here, and breathe the same air as everyone else.
The health of our workforce is monitored, with no pattern of health problems related to particulates among those working at the coalface.
We review scientific information to ensure we have the best possible understanding of air quality around the rail corridor and the contribution of coal trains.
Monitoring by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage less than 400metres from the rail corridor at Beresfield showed that national air quality standards had been met for nine of the past 10 years. Standards were exceeded in 2009, mainly due to dust storms that affected air quality across the state. A report by the office in 2012 found ‘‘overall air quality in the Lower Hunter is as good – or better than – air quality in Sydney and the Illawarra”.
Sampling at Mayfield over a decade by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation found that soil, coal and other industrial sources combined made up less than 14per cent of PM2.5 particulates, those of greatest concern. Greater contributions were made by cars (27per cent), secondary sources (23), smoke (20), and sea salt spray (16).
In his response to matters raised in submissions on the fourth coal loader (T4), Associate Professor David McKenzie concluded that ‘‘dust caused by coal trains was not predicted to result in significant air quality impacts along the rail corridor’’ and that “it is unlikely that the type of dust predicted to be liberated from trains would cause adverse respiratory health effects in nearby residents’’.
Dust monitoring over 15 years in Thornton by Bloomfield Collieries showed that more dust settled at a monitor next to the New England Highway than at a monitor next to the rail corridor.
Trackside monitoring in Queensland found that coal dust from trains does not significantly contribute to ambient particulate levels along the rail corridor.
The monitoring undertaken by the Coal Terminal Action Group (CTAG) last year lasted only a few days and found that coal trains generate dust, just like freight trains, passenger trains, trucks, cars, agriculture, bush fires, wood heaters, wind and sea spray. The monitoring did not find air quality standards were being breached, and did not show that wagon covers are required.
New research by consultants Pacific Environment and Introspec Consulting will investigate measures to reduce what is a small contributor to particulate matter.
Research will identify factors in the coal chain that influence dust emissions from trains – loading and unloading, the shape of coal loads, wind erosion, travel times and distances, coal types, and coal washing.
It will wind tunnel tests to assess the effectiveness of spraying coal loads with water or chemical veneer to reduce wind erosion.
Stephen Galilee is CEO of the
NSW Minerals Council