NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is again targeting mines causing excessive dust in the Hunter with the second year of the 'Bust the Dust' spring campaign starting this week.
So far this year the Upper Hunter has recorded 280 air quality alerts predominately for PM10 exceeding national standards.
These alerts are issued from the 14 air quality monitors located in the Upper Hunter.
Last year more than 1000 alerts were recorded and many were quick to blame the drought for the record breaking number of alerts for the region ( more than triple the previous record of 308 set in 2018).
However, alerts have continued despite the drought breaking rain, particularly for the monitors located at Camberwell and Mt Thorley.
EPA Director Regulatory Operations Adam Gilligan said "Bust the Dust" last year had been a success with most mines adjusting their operational activities on high risk, windy days and further improvement was expected this year.
"EPA officers will be using the latest technology, including drones, to monitor mines and to ensure dust is minimised," Mr Gilligan said.
"Dust from mining activity in the Hunter Valley is a key concern for the community. The EPA expects all coal mines to be vigilant, to take extra precautions and to have systems in place to control dust from their operations, to ensure better air quality for the community."
Mr Gilligan said EPA officers determine the risk of dust every day and will be frequently checking mining operations with the expectation that best practice dust controls are implemented, including shut down of operations if necessary.
"Mines are on notice, the EPA and community expect mine operators to reduce dust and any mines that don't will face significant penalties," Mr Gilligan said.
Community members can report concerns regarding dust risk directly to the mine or to EPA on 131 555. All dust complaints made to the Environment Line are being directed to the EPA officers in the field so they can target those areas of most concern to the community.
The EPA is reminding the community, environment and industry representatives to join the Upper Hunter Air Quality Advisory Committee (UHAQAC).
The committee enables the local community to engage with their industrial neighbours and identify important environmental issues, providing advice to the NSW Minister for Energy and Environment, the EPA and other relevant NSW government agencies.
The UHAQAC was established in 2010 to oversee the implementation and operation of the Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network. It has been advising on the management of regional air quality in the Upper Hunter ever since.
The committee provides an opportunity to influence positive environmental outcomes for the Upper Hunter. Committee members will be selected to ensure a balanced approach and a cross-section of community interest.
Applicants should be able to demonstrate strong links to the community and represent their interest groups on matters relating to the environment.
The successful applicants will be appointed for two years. Further information, including a copy of the application, is available on the EPA's website. The closing date for applications is this Friday September 11.