Coal train dust myths vs facts

Myths Facts
“23,000 children attend school within 500 metres of the coal train lines in the Hunter Valley. Chronic air pollution from 4 million uncovered coal wagons each year is putting them at risk.”

Our Land, Our Water, Our Future website
Independent monitoring by the Office of Environment and Heritage in Beresfield - only 400 metres from the main coal transport rail corridor - shows air quality there has met national air quality standards for particulate matter 9 of the past 10 years, consistent with other areas away from the rail corridor (Source: OEH data).

When compared with international standards, Australian air quality standards are one of the most stringent.

 
Pollution monitoring studies have proven that coal trains are a major source of particle pollution

Hunter Community Environment Centre Media Release, 3 February 2014
There are many sources of particulates in the Newcastle region including mines, industrial premises, rail transport, port facilities, agriculture, shipping, power stations, domestic wood heaters, rubber particles from tyres, vehicle emissions, sea spray and bushfires.

Coal dust from trains is a relatively small source of particulates, with Associate Professor David McKenzie concluding in his review of the T4 air quality assessment “Dust caused by coal trains was not predicted to result in significant air quality impacts along the rail corridor.

Particle studies in Newcastle have shown that coal is a very small proportion of particulates in the region.

 
Between 1% and 3% of the coal loaded into a wagon is lost in transit between the mines and ports.

Hunter Community Environment Centre “Cover the Wagons” Fact Sheet
It appears the source of the 3% figure is studies undertaken in Canada in the 1970’s and 80’s over much longer travel distances (1,100km) in rough terrain.

Loss rates in Queensland, where visible plumes of dust have been witnessed, were estimated to be as low as 0.0028% (Source: Connell Hatch 2008).


 
“During 2013, the coal industry twice monitored pollution from coal wagons. Both studies confirmed that coal trains increase particle pollution significantly.

Hunter Community Environment Centre “Cover the Wagons” Fact Sheet
Both monitoring studies found that all types of trains increase particle pollution and that there was little difference between the dust generated by loaded coal trains, unloaded coal trains, passenger trains and freight trains.

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