April 27, 2023
Data released this month from Australia’s annual report on toxic air pollution shows AGL’s Liddell Power Station has kept pumping out pollution in the lead up to its closure this week.
Health experts and environment groups say the closure of Liddell will provide immediate health benefits to the Hunter Valley community through reduced exposure to mercury, sulfur dioxide, and fine particle pollution.
Recent data from the Australia’s inventory of toxic pollution – the National Pollution Inventory – shows Liddell recorded a 170% increase in mercury pollution from 16kg in 2020-21 to 45kg in 2021-22.
Across NSW, mercury pollution from coal fired power stations has surged by 18% over the last year, with AGL’s Bayswater Power Station rated the state’s worst for mercury pollution (112kg).
Mercury is a neurotoxin, which means it can damage the nervous system, brain and other organs of humans and animals. It’s a persistent toxic element — which means that once it is present in water, it’s there to stay.
Sulfur dioxide pollution from Liddell also increased by 14% from 2020-21 to 2021-22. Prolonged sulfur dioxide exposure may cause inflammation of the respiratory tract, wheezing and lung damage.
Fine particle pollution (PM2.5) from NSW power stations increased by 7%. When inhaled, these particles can go deep into people’s lungs and bloodstream.
Environmental Justice Australia Lawyer Jocelyn McGarity:
“The Hunter Valley has so many assets beyond coal, and the government should be focused on supporting jobs that have a strong future, including investing in renewable energy and requiring proper rehabilitation by operators to clean up the mess left by decades of mining and burning coal.
For too long, the health costs of generating electricity from coal have been unfairly dumped on the people of the Hunter Valley.
The toxic contamination from ash dams can contaminate our rivers and lakes where people fish and children swim.
Each year in Australia, toxic air pollution from coal-burning power stations kills 800 people and worsens conditions such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory diseases.
Doctors for the Environment Australia, Dr Ben Ewald said:
“Children with asthma, and elderly people with respiratory problems, will breathe easier with reduced sulphur dioxide exposure once Liddell stops burning coal.
Reduced exposure to fine particle air pollution will lead to improved birth weight for babies within nine months, however Liddell is just one of several large sources of fine particle air pollution in the upper Hunter Valley.
That’s why it’s crucial that the NSW Government continues to oversee an orderly transition away from coal fired power and coal mining to a diversified economy with renewables at its centre – which is better for everyone’s health.”
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