New equipment to monitor for potentially toxic plumes emitted by coal-fired power stations is being trialled in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.
The Environment Protection Authority is trialling testing across Traralgon to measure toxins including sulphur dioxide, a gas emitted by coal-burning stations which is thought to be the cause of acid rain.
The state government on Thursday said it was improving air monitoring after “listening to the community” and if the trial is successful it will be rolled out across the region.
“The new equipment will provide reliable and accurate information on air quality, to help keep locals healthy and safe,” Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said.
The new equipment will improve the EPA’s ability to locate and watch smoke plumes.
Environmental groups say the extra testing is “long overdue”, but added that data needs to be made available to the people of the Latrobe Valley.
“Access to pollution data will increase environmental justice and allow the community to find out exactly what they are breathing,” said Environmental Justice Australia lawyer Bronya Lipski.
NSW has been doing it for years. There’s no excuse for Victoria not to do the same.”
The group says Australians are exposed to concentrations of nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxides (SO2) that exceed World Health Organisation standards, “especially in communities like the Latrobe Valley that live among power stations”.
“In fact, the WHO recommends a standard for SO2 that is 10 times stricter than the Australian standard,” Ms Lipski said.
The Latrobe Valley is home to a number of brown coal-fuelled stations including Loy Yang Power Stations A & B, Yallourn Power Station and the recently closed Hazelwood.