WA residents worried over air quality concerns for town near Wittenoom

WA residents worried over air quality concerns for town near Wittenoom

The Western Australian government is considering what action it will take over the dust that is coating Pilbara town, Newman, with residents concerned that the dust, which comes from nearby mining activity, could be harmful.

The dust has become so intense that it regularly covers homes and cars, and the noise from mining blasts has become so loud that parents are asking local councillors to act on behalf of their frightened children.

One resident spoke to the ABC and explained that she was unaware of the risks associated with living in Newman. “I always thought pollution was something associated with big industrial cities until a few years ago when I read that Newman was the second-most polluted town in Australia,” she said.

The local council, the Shire of East Pilbara, partnered with the state government on an initiative to monitor the dust over a 12-month period in a state-first and is aimed at identifying the nature of the pollution in the town’s ambient air.

The key factor that investigators looked at is whether the dust that covers the town contains asbestos, as the town is less than 300 kilometres from Wittenoom.

However, the investigation ended in July of 2019, but the report that contained the findings is yet to be released. Despite repeated requests from media outlets, the results aren’t due to be published until later this year.

Local resident, Ms Wilmot, explained that she was  “delighted to learn two years ago” that the “dust would be monitored and we would get some facts.”

“The air quality monitoring done during the eastern state’s bushfires was done in real-time and directives of responses were given in real-time.

“How is it that Newman takes two years and counting?”

Even Environment Minister Stephen Dawson has explained that he is yet to see the results, despite being aware of the problem for some time.

“There are various sources of dust in the region including from mining operations, natural events and local activities that potentially contribute to dust levels in the town,” he said.

“I am keen to see both the findings from the monitoring campaign and the licence review to ensure the industry is doing everything it can to manage dust.”

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