Shire slams air quality claims as ‘nonsense’

CLAIMS that Collie’s air pollution is the fifth worst in Australia are “nonsense”, according to shire president Cr Sarah Stanley.

The claims, made this week by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), are at odds with results obtained during testing carried out by the Department of Environmental Regulation (DER).

“DER, in 2016, found air quality in Collie was considered good on most days and that when it was not, it was attributed to factors such as bush fires and controlled burns, and not because of coal mining or power generation,” said Cr Stanley.

She said the ACF claims were based on selective data taken out of context to suit the author’s agenda.

Air quality is monitored at a state level by the DER and looks at data from a number of regional and metropolitan locations in accordance with the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure (NEPM).

DER reported that Collie experienced 10 days in 2015 on which National Environment Protection Measures (NEPM) were exceeded, four of which were caused by bushfires and the remaining six from prescribed fire hazard reduction burns.

However, the ACF’s “Dirty Truth” report was based on the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) that collates information supplied by only those industrial facilities that are of sufficient size to meet its reporting criteria.

The NPI’s website states that “the various NPI substances have distinct properties and levels of toxicity and it is therefore meaningless to add together emissions of different substances. This does not provide a measure of total pollution.”

Collie has nine facilities required to submit data, including its mines, power stations and alumina refinery. By way of comparison, the City of Perth is recorded as having only one facility that is required to submit data.

However, Collie’s overall air quality index is comparable with South Lake, in the metropolitan area, and is significantly lower than the NEPM standard.

Local GP Dr Peter Wutchak said there was little evidence to support the ACF’s claims of air pollution adversely impacting the health of Collie residents.

“As a clinician on the ground, I certainly do not think our rates of flu or other respiratory disease are significantly different to other areas in the South West,” Dr Wutchak said.

Cr Stanley added that it was no secret that the shire’s most urgent strategic priority is in the diversification of its economy so that new opportunities offset the impact of the inevitable changes in the energy landscape.

Work done over a number of years has helped identify a number of strategic advantages for the Collie region that could be capitalised on with the right support network, including renewable energy, agriculture, food processing, tourism, technology and aged care.

“It is heartening to see the focus at all levels to work collaboratively to ensure a smooth transition for impacted workers and our community,” Cr Stanley said.