Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Data Analysis

The Dialogue has analysed long-term data to determine how air quality in the Upper Hunter has changed and how it compares with other locations.

Following stakeholder feedback at our 2018 Forum event regarding concerns about worsening air quality impacts in the Upper Hunter, the Dialogue’s Joint Advisory Steering Committee endorsed a project to analyse publicly available air quality data from 2013 to 2019, gathered through the Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network, to provide an assessment of long-term trends of air quality.

In consultation with the Joint Environment Working Group, the Dialogue prepared a scope for the project with the objective to answer following two questions:

  1. Has the air quality in the Upper Hunter Valley changed since monitoring began?; and
  2. Is the air quality changes in the Upper Hunter Valley measured at the monitoring stations different from air quality changes measured at other locations in NSW?

ERM Australia Pacific Pty Ltd (ERM) was engaged to deliver this project on the Dialogue’s behalf in October 2019, with Damon Roddis providing a presentation on the initial findings of the analysis at the 2019 Forum event.

Melita Keywood at the CSIRO has provided a peer review of the final draft, and additional analysis was undertaken by ERM in response to incorporate these comments and recommendations into the findings by way of a statistical analysis included in the report’s appendices.

The report found that air quality has changed in the Upper Hunter since the monitoring program began (i.e. concentrations have varied significantly over the period reviewed), but this change is in a manner that is generally consistent with monitoring data collected at DPIE stations across the remainder of NSW.

The report also found that the Upper Hunter air quality changes were broadly consistent with concentrations measured within the Lower Hunter and Central Coast and that the difference between the Upper Hunter and the remainder of NSW is small in scale relative to the variability in concentrations across NSW.

The final report is now available for stakeholders to review and can be accessed in the ‘Resources’ tab below.

Report Update featuring 2020 data

The Dialogue has recently completed additional analysis incorporating 2020 calendar year data, which shows that the wetter than average conditions experienced in 2020 saw a significant improvement in air quality across all monitored regions in the study, including the Upper Hunter.

The original report notes a direct correlation between rainfall and PM concentration levels, with drier years featuring higher concentrations and poorer air quality. In contrast with 2019, 2020 shows a significant increase in annual rainfall, and a corresponding decrease in annual PM10 concentrations.

The report also notes changes in Upper Hunter air quality are “generally consistent with changes experienced across the rest of NSW” with no discernible impact to these (PM10) trends from mining operations.

The Dialogue will continue to discuss and review air quality impacts in the Upper Hunter through the Joint Environment Working Group and Joint Advisory Steering Committee, which may determine if any further or additional analysis may be required.


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