Coal mines in the Hunter region are again on notice as NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) officers head out to monitor air quality as part of its ongoing Bust the Dust campaign conducted over drier weather months.
With 142 air quality alerts recorded so far this year in the Upper Hunter and all bar a few for PM10 dust is once again posing health risks for the region.
In 2022 a year noted for record breaking rains 39 air quality alerts were recorded and in 2021 - also a wetter than average year 116 alerts were recorded.
The last year of below average rainfall was 2019 when more than 1000 air quality alerts were recorded with more than 800 recorded in another dry year 2018.
Director Operations David Gathercole said previous Bust the Dust campaigns in 2019 and 2020 had been very successful with most mines adjusting their operational activities on high-risk windy days, and further improvement was expected this year.
"Dust from mining activity in the Hunter Valley is a key concern for the community and the EPA expects all coal mines to be vigilant and take extra precautions to ensure better air quality for the community," Mr Gathercole said.
"After two years of wet La Nina conditions, we're expecting dry weather this spring and summer and this will increase the risk to air quality, so dust monitoring will be a priority for us.
"EPA officers will be on the ground using the latest technology, including drones, to locate the source of any dust emissions and ensure mines have appropriate controls in place.
"In addition, anyone with concerns about mining dust can make a report to our Environment Line on 131 555 and that will be directed to our Bust the Dust officers in field to help us target any areas of concern."
The EPA regulates air quality at mine sites through the Environmental Protection Licences and coal mines are required to implement procedures to reduce dust from their operations.
Community members can report concerns regarding dust risk directly to the mine or to EPA on 131 555.