If our Wipe Up samples are anything to go by, there's a lot of concern in Mackay about dust, and particularly coal dust.
Since October we've been encouraging the community of Mackay to send dust samples into Communities Protecting our Region. On Wednesday 11 December we presented samples and our concerns about the need for better dust monitoring and control to State Member for Mackay Tim Mulherin.
We collected over 120 samples with wipes and in four locations collected dust over a month that was then sent to a laboratory for analysis.
In three of the four locations we found over 50% was coal dust. These locations were on the rail lines bringing coal in the Ports of Hay Point, and at Louisa Creek.
Click for a full report including the laboratory analysis of the coal dust samples.
Margie Mclean, Cheryl Corbett and Alison Hosken are pictured above Old Town Hall Park with samples collected from across Mackay showing the presence of dark dust samples.
We conducted an audit and found that Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay were both well below international best practice, particularly in relation to covering of stockpiles and conveyors.
For the 2011 – 2012 financial year, Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay produced 501 tonnes of PM10 pollution. PM10 particles that are about one fifth of a human hair, and some of the most dangerous to human health. The ports must do better.
Our audit, which was developed by the Hunter Community Environment Centre in Newcastle, looked at emerging best practice for the control of coal dust.
The audit found that both Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay failed to achieve international best practice in coal handling and loading.
A copy of the report can be downloaded here.
In recognition of the health impacts of coal dust, companies around the world are looking to have completely covered stockpiles and conveyors. We are a long way from this here in Mackay.
The audit describes 103 techniques, and then outlines best practice for each section of the coal handling process. While the Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay implemented some of these techniques, they failed to achieve best practice at each stage of the coal handling process.
In Australia, we should be able to expect better from the companies making money out of our coal. It’s a minimum requirement that they look after the health of the communities in which they operate.
Most disturbing is that the proposed Dudgeon Point coal terminal also has large open stockpiles, even though the coal industry itself says this is not best practice. This will mean tonnes of coal dust blown over neighbouring communities this year. We simply can’t accept this in our community.
The Wipe Up Campaign kicked off this week (Saturday 19/10/13) with a Launch event at the Environment Centre. The campaign aims to engage Mackay, Sarina and Hay Point surrounds residents on the issue of dust.
Dust is frequently reported as a nuisance and health concern by residents from these areas, with the Hay Point Coal Port being the single largest contributor of (PM10) dust pollution to the region.
We were very lucky to be joined last Sunday 22 September on our trip to Keswick Island by long time researcher from James Cook University Jon Brodie. Jon spoke about the amount of sediment that would be dumped in the Reef as a result of the dumping of dredge spoil - dwarfing the amount of sediment from agricultural sources.
He also talked about the difficulty in obtaining impartial studies on the impacts of dredging as all monitoring is done by consultants paid by the mining companies. In this context the need for independent objective monitoring is paramount.