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Dust in the Hunter Valley - An Evaluation of Concentration Distributions, Meteorological Associations and Community Response

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Published: September 99Project Number: C6006

Get ReportAuthor: Nigel Holmes | Holmes Air Sciences

This project investigated the distribution of dust in the Hunter Valley and the relationship between community attitudes to air quality and concentrations of dust to which they are exposed. From anecdotal evidence derived from submissions to Public Inquiry's associated with the opening of mines it is clear that the community is concerned about potential health impacts from dust emissions and from nuisance impacts. Air quality standards for the protection of human health have been developed from a wide basis of scientific knowledge developed over the last 10 - 20 years. This database has allowed the development of air quality goals which are believed to protect human health.

The potential for dust to cause nuisance impacts is rather less well studied. One of the purposes of this study was to attempt to correlate community attitudes to air quality with objective measurements of dust concentrations. To do this it was necessary to have concentration measurements with good time resolutions so that short-term high concentrations of dust could be detected. This was considered necessary because the assessment as to whether a dust concentration is at a nuisance level, or not, would appear to be related to the presence of high concentrations of visible dust, rather than the more moderate concentrations of invisible dust which may give rise to health impacts. Given this background a study was designed to measure short-term concentrations of dust and to determine community attitudes to these exposures.

In summary, the objectives of this study were to develop air quality goals which could be used to objectively assess the level of nuisance created by short-term exposures to dust such as those that might be experienced by communities living in mining areas. The conduct of this study resulted in the development of a very detailed database, which included measurements of dust at three locations as well as a measure of the community assessment of air quality at the same time. This database in fact answers many more questions than were originally envisaged when the research study was designed. The database has been particularly relevant in providing data on the relationship between PM2.5 and PM10 particles. This has become a particularly important issue since the time the study was commenced. During this time air quality goals in the United States have been developed for PM2.5 concentrations based on the health effects. The levels selected for the goals have been set after reviewing the findings of epidemiological studies in urban areas comprising large numbers of people, of the order of millions of people.

The report adopts the following structure.

Section 2 provides a description of an approach to the study and describes the monitoring program and the community survey.

Section 3 provides some background information on the performance of the GRIMM monitors that were used to provide continuous measurement of dust concentrations. These measuring devices are a relatively new technology. To provide some reference with conventional measurement techniques, two studies were conducted. In these, measurements made by the GRIMM monitors were compared with measurements made by standard high-volume samplers and by the TEOM technology which can also provide short-term concentrations of dust.

Section 4 describes the results of the community survey.

Section 5 presents an analysis of the air quality monitoring results without reference to the community survey data.

Section 6 discusses the relationships between community response to dust at different concentrations. It examines the response to long-term exposures and to short-term episodic exposures.

Section 7 summarises the major findings of the study.


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