AIR quality monitoring systems installed in the backyards of 12 frustrated Hunter residents have recorded alarming particle pollution levels.
A study commissioned by the Coal Terminal Action Group - a coalition of 18 Hunter community groups - found dust pollution levels, from December 10, 2012 to January 6, 2013, to be well in excess of national air quality safety levels on at least five days a week.
Dust particles range from 1 micron in diameter (PM1) to 10 microns (PM10) and were measured at Mayfield, Mayfield East, Carrington, Tighes Hill, Kotara, Hexham, Thornton, East Maitland and Lochinvar.
Suburbs closest to the Port of Newcastle, such as Tighes Hill and Carrington, recorded significantly higher levels of particulate pollution compared with levels recorded by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) monitors in Cooks Hill.
Last Thursday, more than 100 residents packed into the Lovett Gallery in Newcastle library to listen to the findings, as well as hear from air quality expert from the University of Newcastle, Howard Bridgman, and local epidemiologist and general practitioner Ben Ewald, among others.
Mr Ewald voiced his belief that the proposed fourth coal loader (T4) would add about $29 million a year in extra health costs.
The health impacts dominated the public discussion, according to Coal Terminal Action Group spokeswoman Zoe Rogers, who said it was time the Hunter saw an independent study conducted.
"We need to know what is in the dust, we (the community) cannot study the particle characteristics because of the cost," she said.
"The statistics we found are alarming for inner-city suburbs, seven out of 11 locations exceeded the national standards.
"The health of people should not be disregarded."
■ Hunter residents are being encouraged to attend a rally, this Saturday, March 16, at Customs House Newcastle from 10am to 2pm. Email email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.