EPA announce finding from Bust the Dust tests during October storm

GUSTY AND DUSTY: Dust blowing off a Hunter mine site last last month. There has been an unprecedented number of alerts for poor air quality this year. Picture: Marina Neil/Newcastle Herald. Picture digitally altered.
GUSTY AND DUSTY: Dust blowing off a Hunter mine site last last month. There has been an unprecedented number of alerts for poor air quality this year. Picture: Marina Neil/Newcastle Herald. Picture digitally altered.

THE Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Bust the Dust campaign was in full swing earlier this week, when gusty conditions caused a storm.

With strong winds and the mercury rising to a stunning 36 degrees in early October, the organisation was out in force.

They tested PM10 levels, and checked whether mine sites were taking appropriate action to minimise dust.

The findings were mixed, although potentially the most interesting point was that their Air Quality Monitoring Network stations, 14 of which are in the Hunter, picked some troubling findings.

"PM10 levels exceeded national standards on Monday and Tuesday at Armidale, Tamworth, Gunnedah, Narrabri, Muswellbrook and Singleton with the highest values recorded at Tamworth, Gunnedah and Narrabri," said an EPA spokesperson.

"PM10 levels also exceeded the national standards at the Merriwa background monitoring station on Monday, 7 October, indicating elevated dust levels across much of the region.'

They did expect this, however, due to strong winds hitting a region which was suffering from severe drought.

The EPA did sound a warning about large amounts of dust though, and said it can cause health repercussions.

"While most healthy people can breathe in small amounts of particles without major long-term effects, extreme air pollution events such as bushfires and major dust storms can affect everyone," they said.

"Some people such as children, those with heart or lung disease and the elderly can be sensitive to even relatively low levels of particle pollution.

"Exposure to fine particle pollution has been linked to a variety of health problems including increased respiratory symptoms, heart problems and premature death in people with heart or lung disease."

While that is alarming, they did have positive news regarding the mines, who were on top of the situation despite tough conditions.

The watering down of haul roads, as well as relocation and even cessation of operations were some of the actions taken.

They checked the sites on Monday, October 7, by using drone technology.

The community can follow updates about the Bust the Dust campaign through the EPA's twitter account or website.