Valley dust triggers air quality alert

FOR Bulga resident Ian Hedley, dust pollution is not only a threat to his health but also to his business.

Driving to work yesterday, he wondered whether he would be forced to close his Mt Thorley mining engineering business for the day.

It was something that he did last September, when the dust was so thick it posed a threat to his employees’ health.

The Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network issued four dust alerts between midnight on Tuesday and midnight last night.

The alerts were for exceedances of the 24-hour national Environment Protection Measurement standard for particulate matter of less than 10 microns (PM10).

Two hourly exceedances were reported yesterday.

NSW Environment Protection Authority chairman Barry Buffier said hot, dry, windy conditions over the 24-hour period had contributed to the exceedances.

‘‘The spike in PM10 correlates to a change in wind direction from south-east to north-west – Singleton north-west, Camberwell and Singleton are directly downwind from mines during period of north-westerly airflow,’’ he said.

Mr Buffier said that according to the Australian National Environment Protection Measurement standards, Tuesday’s report would be considered as only one exceedance, though it was recorded by a number of monitors.

Like many other Upper Hunter residents, Mr Hedley said dust pollution had a dramatic impact on his family.

‘‘I have a wife and two daughters who weren’t born with asthma but they have asthma now,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m standing on my back verandah now. We had dinner here last night and our table was spotlessly clean and just after one night it’s covered in dust.’’

The landscape of Singleton was shrouded in a dusty mist yesterday, the mine works barely visible behind. Picture: Peter Stoop

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