Bringing awareness to health concerns over coal dust
DRESSED in bright yellow to draw attention to their cause, members of Clean Air for the Ipswich Region (CLAIR) boarded the train at Ipswich Station to raise awareness about the impact of uncovered coal trains, which they said posed a big risk to the health of the community.
Members of CLAIR along with those from Clean Air Queensland set out Friday morning, gathering other concerned residents to "conga" their way along the Ipswich train line through Brisbane suburbs to Wynnum in what they called the Coal Dust Conga Line.
CAQ spokesperson Julie Devine said uncovered coal trains travelled through Ipswich and other urban areas to the Port of Brisbane, resulting in coal dust falling over people, their homes and businesses.
"The World Health Organisation says there is no safe level of exposure to coal dust and yet 40,000 children attend schools and day care centres within a kilometre of train lines that carry uncovered coal trains," she said.
"The State Government should demand that mining companies are made to cover the coal wagons and protect our health. Surely that's not too much to ask."
CLAIR spokesperson Karen Lavin said the Ipswich community was concerned more coal trains would travel on the line if the State Government approved the anticipated Stage 3 expansion of the New Acland mine.
"We should not be endangering people's health, especially young children and those with respiratory problems," Ms Lavin said.
New Hope have responded to CLAIR's claims, arguing the company was already addressing health concerns through management practices and engagement activities.
"Coal transported by NHG has comparatively low levels of dust, especially when compared with coal from central Queensland," a statement said.
"This low level of dust generation is because Darling Downs coal is harder than other coals and less likely to produce fine material when handled.
"All NHG coal is washed before transportation. Our coal retains in excess of 10% total moisture content. So both this attribute and the hardness contributes to the very low presence of dust in our product."
New Hope Group also said trains from New Acland mine were coated with an environmentally-friendly veneering solution which could reduce dust by up to 80%.
"The solution dries to form a flexible crust over the coal and physically prevents dust from being released from the wagons," the statement said.
Ms Lavin, however, said CLAIR believed veneering was not an effective method and that completely covering coal wagons was the only viable solution.
"The coal wagons have to be covered to avoid health concerns like lung disease and respiratory issues," she said.
"I've spoken to people who live near the train line and their houses are getting filthy. One young mother has to close up her unit because her son's asthma had gotten worse."
New Hope Group asked Ipswich residents to make an informed decision.
"NHG 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 below 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."