Coal dust risk to Illawarra households: Merrin

Uncovered Illawarra coal trains pose a risk to the health of people living close to rail lines, Wollongong councillor Jill Merrin said yesterday.

The Greens councillor wants to force train operators to cover their loads, echoing concerns of a campaign in Newcastle.

“There is growing community support in the Hunter … to require all coal trains to be covered,” Cr Merrin said.

“Residents of Wollongong are also being subject to the health risks of coal dust by the transport of open-topped coal trains through their neighbourhoods.

“We now know that the fine dust particles from coal have the potential to cause serious lung diseases.”

Cr Merrin said the Environment Protection Authority had been testing the air quality near railway lines in the Hunter and she called for the same process to happen here.

“People who live anywhere near a train line in Wollongong know about the constant black dust they have to wash off their houses,” Cr Merrin said. “That same dust is lining their lungs and the lungs of their children.”

She said different approaches to covering loads depended on how the coal was transported.

“Trucks which transport coal are currently required to have their loads covered, so we want to know why the same standards are not applied to coal trains,” Cr Merrin said.

“It is time the state government imposed the same pollution control standards for coal transport, whether it’s by road or rail.”

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