Dust 13-times Higher as Coal Trains Pass

Filed under News ~ by Press on  23 Aug 2013

Particle pollution levels increase by up to 13 times as coal trains pass through suburbs in Newcastle and the Lower Hunter, an independent study found.

Image: Rail link to Selwyn St coal loader with tell-tail dust trail. Tighes Hill TAFE visible at left.

Community groups concerned about dust and health monitored particle pollution in residential areas in July. Results led them to demand action from the NSW Government to cover and wash coal wagons. 

According to the study all coal trains increase particle pollution levels, while unloaded coal trains caused highest pollution levels.

The study shows that coal trains dramatically increase pollution levels in residential areas”, said Dr James Whelan, chair of the Coal Terminal Action Group’s Dust and Health Committee.

The NSW Government needs to act urgently to reduce particle pollution from coal trains. It’s time for Premier Barry O’Farrell to instruct the coal industry to cover loaded wagons and wash empty ones.”

More than 100 loaded and unloaded coal trains pass through our suburbs each day already. That’s more than 8,000 coal wagons every day, dispersing millions of fine particles into the coal corridor where 30,000 people live and 25,000 children attend school.”

During July, community groups monitored particle pollution from coal trains at three locations to establish the ‘signature’ of coal trains in residential areas. Industry-standard instruments were used to measure concentrations of PM1, PM2.5 and PM10 as coal wagons passed through suburbs in Newcastle and the Lower Hunter. Study results show that loaded and unloaded show coal trains increase pollution levels by 200%-1200%, prompting calls for coal wagons to be covered and washed.

The group’s monitoring was filmed by the ABC’s ‘Catalyst’ science program for a special episode on fine particle pollution. Attention to particle pollution from coal trains increased after a controversial Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) study of coal train pollution, in which peer review found “major flaws” of design and interpretation.

The study coincides with the NSW Government’s assessment of a fourth coal terminal (T4) that would double Newcastle’s coal exports, and double the number of coal trains. Newcastle is the world’s largest coal port. It exported 150 million tonnes of coal last year.

More information

The full report, ‘signature’ graphics, background information and videos of coal trains can be downloaded via this link: coverthewagons

In 2008 the World Health Organization (WHO) and other organizations calculated that coal particulates pollution cause approximately one million deaths annually across the world,[Reference] which is approximately one third of all premature deaths related to all air pollution sources.

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