Lake Macquarie environment groups are targeting pollution from the region's two power stations as part of a campaign calling for stronger action to improve air quality.
The State Government recently released a draft air quality strategy, which aims to introduce a whole of government approach for improving air quality and minimising adverse effects on human health.
A recent meeting of Lake Macquarie environment groups heard that nitrogen dioxide emissions from coal-fired power stations were responsible for higher than average rates of asthma in surrounding residents.
A 2018 Australian Child Health and Air Pollution Study found increased risk of asthma and reduced lung function in children aged between 7 to 11 years occurred at an average nitrogen dioxide exposure of 18 micrograms per cubic meter of air.
Historic air quality data shows nitrogen dioxide concentrations exceeded this level at Dora Creek in 2019 (19.3 ug/m3) and at Wyee in 2017 (20.7 ug/m3).
Twenty kilometres south at Wyong, the highest annual average nitrogen dioxide level was 10.2 ug/m3 over the four years from 2016-2019.
"The government's position seems to be that because coal-fired power stations will eventually close, there's no point in doing anything about the air pollution they generate in the interim," Healthy Futures campaign organiser Alice Eggleston said.
"The government also adopts the position that existing licences for power stations are doing the job, but we know that existing air pollution limits are set too high."
"We know best practice techniques are not installed to reduce nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide - we can have all the monitoring in the world, but if emissions limits are set too high by licences, then best practice control equipment is not required to be installed by operators to actually reduce nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.
The groups are also pushing for more air quality monitoring around the lake.
"[The strategy] comprises a number of aspirational statements with a lack of detail about how air quality monitoring and access to information will actually be improved for the people of NSW," Ms Eggleston said.
Environment Minister Matt Kean unveiled a new $320,000 air quality monitoring station at Morisset East late last year.
The station provides near-real-time data about air quality in the area.
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The Environment Protection Authority issued variations to the licences of NSW coal-fired power stations he said.
It is working with operators to further strengthen licence conditions and ensure licensed emission limits are consistent with operational performance. Licences are subject to review every five years.
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