CONCERNS about the health impacts brown coal power station emissions are having on Latrobe Valley residents will be assessed by a senate inquiry, submissions for which close tomorrow.
The national inquiry, which will look at populations most impacted by air quality issues, will assess the standards of current monitoring regulations across a number of industries, and has already attracted a number of submissions addressing the Valley’s coal industry.
Victorian Greens senator Richard Di Natale, who will head the inquiry, said it was critical people of the Valley understood exactly what impact combusted particles and coal dust were having on their long term health.
“Particularly now there’s a push to continue expanding the mining of (Valley) coal and exports of coal, we need to be very clear about the health risks which are entailed with that,” Mr Di Natale said.
The Latrobe Valley Air Monitoring Network, which is funded by the power industry, operates two air monitoring stations in Rosedale South and Jeeralang Hill, while the Environment Protection Agency operates a Traralgon station, all which monitor sulphur dioxide, particle matter, and ozone.
The EPA concluded a 12-month program last month, which monitored particle matter down to the size of 2.5 microns at a Morwell East site, the data for which has yet to be validated.
However Mr Di Natale said there were widespread concerns current monitoring levels where inadequate to register particles less than 2.5 microns, which are widely blamed to cause long term respiratory problems.
“It’s that really small stuff that gets very deep into people’s lungs, and there are a range of studies which show these particles can cause a range of respiratory issues, including cancer, so it is vital we get an adequate gauge on our exposure to coal dust,” he said.
Traralgon resident Dan Caffrey, who has made a submission on behalf of Latrobe Valley Sustainability Group, said he had ongoing concerns about “brown plumes” of smoke coming from the ageing Morwell Energybrix and Hazelwood power stations.
“Traralgon is north east of both Hazelwood and Energybrix, and the prevailing winds are mostly south westerly, so we are right in the path of that browny smoke,” Mr Caffrey said.
“As soon as we moved to the Valley (from Tasmania), within a few months my seven year-old son, who is into athletics in big way, developed asthma.
“I have spoken to people who have moved into Valley in the last five or so years who have never experienced asthma, who are now showing breathing difficulty symptoms.”
The inquiry is due to visit targeted regions across the country in April, and while an itinerary is not yet set, Mr Di Natale said he was hopeful it would be visiting the Valley.