No extra public air monitoring but Vales Point licence tightened

Vales Point power station at Mannering ParkVales Point power station at Mannering Park

Vales Point coal-fired power station may face stricter and more consistent pollution licencing as a result of recommendations from the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

Following a review of power station emissions, the EPA recommended stricter and more consistent pollution licences for five power stations in NSW, including Vales Point. Environmental Justice Australia sparked the review 12 months ago by asking the EPA to investigate pollution reports from the power stations that appeared to be in error. “The report confirmed the concerns raised in EJA’s complaint to the EPA and recommended sweeping changes to the Environment Protection Licences (EPLs) held by electricity generators,” said EJA researcher, Dr James Whelan. “The EPA proposed new EPLs so all five power stations had more consistent emission limits and obligations, as well as more consistent arrangements for monitoring and reporting air pollution,” Dr Whelan said.

“At present Vales Point power station is licenced to emit concentrations of fine particle pollution that are twice the level permitted for the Eraring power station just 25km away, while Vales Point’s mercury concentration limits can be up to five times higher than those from Eraring,” he said. Representatives met with the CEO and Chair of the NSW EPA, Ms Anissa Levy, on Thursday, May 3, seeking a commitment to reviewing power station licences and to establishing additional air pollution monitoring stations on the Central Coast. There is only one monitoring station between Newcastle and Sydney, at the Wyong race track.

“The Central Coast community has a right to know much more about how the two massive coal-fired power stations pollute the air we breathe,” said Community Environment Network executive member, Mr Mike Campbell. “It’s very disappointing that the EPA remains unwilling to expand its air pollution monitoring network in our community,” Mr Campbell said. “Health authorities should be assessing the health impacts of the power stations, including hospital admissions when asthma rates spike,” he said. “Previous studies have confirmed that we have a much higher rate of asthma here than in other parts of NSW,” said Mr Campbell. Dr Ben Ewald, a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia, said sulphur dioxide and toxic fine particles travelled long distances.

“Around 17 per cent of Sydney’s fine particle pollution comes from a coal-fired power station, even though the nearest one is 100 kilometres away on the Central Coast,” Dr Ewald said. Source: Media release, May 4 James Whelan, Environmental Justice Australia