The release of the state's Annual Air Quality Statement 2018 makes for sobering reading, especially if you live in the village of Camberwell.
Last year Camberwell had the dubious honour of recording the highest number of days over the PM10 ( air particulate pollution levels) daily benchmark in the region, with a total of 44 days - nearly double the number of the previous year.
This report blames the drought for increased PM10 levels and wood smoke for exceedences in PM2.5 levels.There were 73 days in the Upper Hunter when the daily PM10 levels were over the benchmark at one or more sites based on measurements from the Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network .
However, on the days described as being an 'exceptional event' November 21-23 when a dust storm swept across the state from the west monitoring stations at Camberwell and Mount Thorley recorded significant worse air quality than the monitors at Merriwa, Wybong and Aberdeen. Throughout the year the highest number of days where PM10 levels were above the national benchmark were recorded in our region at Mount Thorley (30+), Maison Dieu (20+) and Singleton North West (20+) and then Warkworth (15+).
Commenting on the Statement James Whelan ,Researcher and Community Organiser Environmental Justice Australia said "By its own account, the NSW Government is failing to protect the state's communities from harmful levels of air pollution. This most recent report demonstrates a serious failure by the Environment Protection Authority to control air pollution."
"Pollution controls are readily available to control particle pollution in the Hunter Valley. The EPA could control fine particle pollution from wood heaters and power stations in a heart beat, and dramatically reduce coarse particle pollution from coal mines." "Controlling air pollution isn't rocket science, but it requires political will and an environmental watchdog with teeth." "Community health would be improved and hundreds of premature deaths prevented by controlling the state's air pollution." His organisation has met with Environment Minister Matt Kean and Planning Minister Rob Stokes urging them to implement a state-wide pollution control strategy.