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Mining body slams community train dust study

Brisbane suburbs and coal corridor. Graphic: The State of Queensland (Department of Natural Resources and Water) 2007

Community action group Clean Air Queensland will continue its fight against coal trains despite the Queensland Resources Council attacking its trackside dust study.

Clean Air Queensland (CAQ) released the results of its air quality monitoring study in early May.

The organisation says that, using industry-standard air quality monitoring equipment, its members monitored particle pollution levels along the Brisbane train line at Wynnum, Fairfield and Morningside.

CAQ is concerned that with an expansion of coal mining in south east Queensland, increased coal train traffic to the Port of Brisbane will have a deleterious effect on residents’ health.

The group says its study found “alarming rates of pollution in Brisbane associated with dust from coal trains travelling to the Port of Brisbane.”

According to CAQ’s publicity: “The study   ‘Health Hazard in our Suburbs’ – shows coal train pollution readings of 900 per cent above normal levels.”

CAQ spokesperson Michael Kane said the study showed coal trains were emitting “alarming amounts of pollution” as they passed close to homes, schools and workplaces.

“The report shows that coal trains are regularly emitting dangerous levels of air pollution in Brisbane suburbs and the government must now act to protect the community,” Kane said.

The day after CAQ’s study was released, peak state mining industry lobby group Queensland Resources Council (QRC) said it was deeply flawed and misleading.

QRC chief executive Michael Roche said the monitoring carried out by CAQ was unsound and the report wouldn’t stand up to peer review.

“It’s hardly surprising that this group, which includes anti-coal activist groups including Lock the Gate, 6 Degrees and Friends of the Earth would come up with such a report,” Roche stated.

“I would challenge them to undertake independent and peer-reviewed monitoring, which the coal industry has been doing along the rail corridor to the Port of Brisbane for more than two years.

“They undertook only nine monitoring sessions, utilising a method that is not consistent with the Australian air quality standards.

“They admit themselves in the report that they don’t know the distribution of air particles beyond the railway line.

“It’s also telling that they ignored some results from coal, freight and passenger trains that passed during the monitoring period. One would have to wonder why.

“In addition, the study included no wind direction monitoring, which means they would have no way of knowing the origins of the dust measured.

“More than two years’ worth of data from industry-funded monitoring, using methods consistent with the National Air Quality Standards, is in the public domain. I would urge people interested in learning more about air quality along the corridor to visit the Queensland Government’s air quality website where the results of the independent monitoring are reported in near real time.

“Industry has nothing to hide, as evidenced by the fact that since the start of continuous monitoring, the only instances where recorded air quality was above the national standards were independently found to be unconnected to coal-dust emissions, and usually a result of either bushfires, dust storms or track and road maintenance.

“Veneering, which is used on all Queensland coal trains to minimise dust emissions, is world-leading practice and the Queensland Department of Health noted in the 2013 independent dust monitoring findings, that ‘for people living along the rail corridor, the dust concentrations measured during the investigation are unlikely to result in any adverse health effects.’

“I would urge the Queensland Government to see this report for what it is – just another attack by anti-coal activists on our coal sector, which in 2013/14 directly employed more than 26,000 people full time, spent more than $15 billion in the state and contributed almost $2 billion in royalties to the government.”

Clean Air Queensland appeared undaunted by Queensland Resources Council’s salvo.

It said that “instead of trying to shoot the messenger, the Queensland Resources Council should support community efforts to keep Brisbane free of coal dust pollution.”

Community efforts to directly monitor coal dust are only set to grow.

A recent post on the home page of Clean Air Queensland’s web site said that “We are using the same Osiris dust monitors used in the last study and are looking for people to assist who can give 4 or more hours a week.

“Volunteers will be trained to become community scientists and use the Osiris monitoring equipment to collect data on passing coal trains. No experience is necessary.”


This article originally appeared in Rail Express sister publication, the Australian Bulk Handling Review.

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