Up to 20 new monitors will be installed in western Lake Macquarie to assist the community respond to air quality concerns.
The new monitors will be operational during summer when dust levels generally increase.
In one incident in late 2019, tonnes of dust from the Eraring Power station ash dam blew across homes on the western site of the lake, triggering a spike in asthma cases.
The monitors, which measure about 8.5cm by 8.5cm by 13cm in size, will complement the existing monitoring network operated by government licensees to provide a better picture of outdoor air quality.
They use laser particle counters to count the number of airborne particles in the air in a range of sizes. These particle counts are then used to estimate PM1.0, PM2.5, and PM10 mass concentration in micrograms per cubic meter air or g/m3. These particle counts are then used to estimate the PM2.5 air quality index.
The lake network will rival the Upper Hunter Air Quality monitoring network that was installed in the late 2000s in response to community concerns about the impact of mining on air quality.
EPA director of operations David Gathercole said information gathered from the new monitors would help both the EPA and the community identify areas of concern and may help inform future initiatives in the area.
"We know the communities in west Lake Macquarie are very keen to have the most up to date information on their outdoor air quality and these monitors will provide a real benefit," he said.
"The program allows the community to access air quality data in near real time so they can make better informed decisions in response to air quality where they are."
Monitors will be installed from this week. More sites will come online in coming weeks in targeted areas stretching from Acadia Vale and Awaba to Wangi and Wyee.
"They will complement the existing NSW air quality monitoring sites at Morisset and Wyong and readings will be considered with the broader network," Mr Gathercole said.
"The new monitors are expected to provide data over the next six months, with the first sensors live now."
The data from the new monitors can be accessed on the EPA Website.
Poor air quality has been linked to 603 early deaths a year.
Lake Macquarie council put the annual cost of air quality-related illness in the local government area at $50 million a year in 2013.
"While many are aware of how air pollution contributes to lung problems like asthma and emphysema, there is increasing evidence that it also contributes to your risk of heart disease, dementia, low baby birth weight, and several other diseases," Lake Macquarie GP Kathleen Wild said
This is why there are there are limits on nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide chemicals that pollute the air from coal power stations, and it is a health concern to the Lake Macquarie and Central Coast communities that exemptions have been granted to Vales Point Power Station to exceed limits on air pollution."