Local News

Air quality in the Upper Hunter expected to deteriorate again this afternoon

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The air quality is expected to deteriorate again in the Upper Hunter this afternoon.

Over the weekend a dozen of the air quality monitors showed the air quality exceeding the national standard of PM10 levels or course particle pollution. 

The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) have sent a statement to Radio Hunter Valley from a spokesperson that says right now NSW is experiencing its highest level of dust activity in 10 years. 

"High dust levels were recorded in the Upper Hunter on Sunday night after a cold front with strong winds carried large amounts of dust from drought-affected inland NSW into the area."

"According to the OEH Dustwatch program, Spring 2018 was the second dustiest spring since surveys began in 2005 – only surpassed by September 2009, the year of the Red Dawn dust storm that engulfed Sydney."

"The EPA has required all coal mines to implement best practice measures to minimise dust emissions via the Dust Stop Program. The EPA monitors compliance with the requirements through inspections, which is estimated to be reducing particle emissions from NSW coal mines by 22,000 tonnes per annum."

The peak in dust in the Upper Hunter's air also means that over the next few days emergency departments and doctors surgeries could see a rise in patients presenting with respiratory issues. 

Bob Vickers, a GP from Singleton said he could see the brown haze in the air even as he drove into work today. 

"Already today I've received an alert on my phone for one of the Singleton air quality monitors for dust levels. even without looking at the monitors, looking out the window everyone in town can see the brown haze,"

"We know that with the occasional days of high levels of PM10 course particles we are likely to see over the coming ays increased rates of asthma exacerbation, hay fever, essentially upper airway irritation, so this is the sudden change that we see with these days as opposed to the long term change from the average high level," said Bob Vickers.

He added that on days like today there needs to be more than just a Total Fire Ban put into place.

"There's a mix of sources for air pollution from industrial production, seasonal weather, dust production, agriculture, diesel exhaust,"

"What I find funny with weather like today we have forecast that it's going to be hot and dry and windy so we made amendments like let's put in a Total Fire Ban, but what we're not doing is putting in change of activity, we have large trucks still driving on the haul ways close to town... so I really hope that a lot of the open cut voids are hanging their activities today," said Bob Vickers. 

Image credit: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/uhunteraqmap.htm