Grime and punishment call in coal dust row

Monday February 24, 2014
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Grime and punishment call in coal dust row

By IAN KIRKWOOD

Feb. 24, 2014, 7 a.m.

  • Grime and punishment call in coal dust row

Source: The Newcastle Herald

A MAYFIELD group says its dossier of coal train photographs is all the proof that the state government needs to penalise the Hunter coal industry for breaching pollution laws.

The Correct Planning and Consultation for Mayfield Group is the latest community organisation to voice concerns over dust from coal trains.

A long-running debate on the problem  took a new turn last week when the NSW Minerals Council announced new research, including wind tunnel tests, into the dust from coal trains.

This followed the release of documents obtained under freedom-of-information laws that environmental groups  said were evidence of collusion between the coal industry and regulators.

The Mayfield group’s spokesman, John Hayes, said yesterday that the public was ‘‘sick of hearing the official line that there is no problem with coal coming from coal wagons’’.

Mr Hayes said a 17-page report with 33 colour photographs taken along the coal rail lines had been lodged last week with the Environment Protection Authority and  Transport for NSW.

“These photos and this report call into question their statements and assurances that all is well; and residents need not be concerned.’’

He said trucks were not allowed on the roads with uncovered loads, yet coal trains were being allowed to pollute the air,  ground, and eventually  waterways.

‘‘Our photographs show coal on the unwashed interior surfaces of empty wagons just waiting to blow out,’’ Mr Hayes said.

‘‘They show ill-fitting wagon doors that fail to seal, they show coal spilling over the sides of over-filled wagons. Coal building up all over the wagon couplings and coal on the tracks.’’

The Newcastle Herald was waiting on Sunday night for a response from the EPA, which  said last week that it was proud of its efforts in the Hunter region.

Chief executive Barry Buffier said the EPA had undertaken  programs ‘‘where we have good evidence supporting a significant impact on air quality’’.

 Mr Buffier said he absolutely rejected claims the EPA had been ‘‘lying to the community’’.

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