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Parliamentary Questions

Question On Notice No. 2200 asked in the Legislative Council on 6 June 2019 by Hon Jacqui Boydell

Question Directed to the: Minister for Environment
Minister responding: Hon S.N. Dawson
Parliament: 40 Session: 1

I refer to the ongoing issue of dust contamination in Port Hedland, in particular the Port Hedland Industries Council Annual Report 2017-18, which states that two of the dust monitoring stations have recorded their highest number of concentrations above the Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) standards compared to all previous years of monitoring, and I ask:
(a) is the Minister aware of the consistent and continued exceedance of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and NEPM particulate matter limits in Port Hedland;
(b) if yes to (a), what are steps is the Minister taking to ensure that Government and industry work together to reduce the levels of dust pollution in Port Hedland;
(c) what extra dust mitigation strategies will the Government implement to reduce the dust pollution as output through the port continues to rise; and
(d) will the Government commit to undertaking any studies into the long term effects of the dust on the health of those that are continually exposed to it?

Answered on 8 August 2019

(a)-(c) Managing dust levels in Port Hedland’s West End is a challenging issue originally identified by the Environmental Protection Authority in 2009. Due to a range of contributing factors, the level of dust recorded at each monitoring station will fluctuate over time. In recent years, however, the number of NEPM exceedances have remained relatively stable even though there has been an increase in exports through the port.

In 2016, the Department of Health concluded a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) for Port Hedland, which formed some of the basis of the Port Hedland Dust Management Taskforce recommendations to Government. The HRA proposed a 24 hour PM10 interim guideline of 70 μg/m3 on the basis that it provided a similar level of protection for the current population of Port Hedland as the National Environment Protection Measure and the World Health Organisation guideline level. The Government endorsed this guideline and it is currently applied in Port Hedland.

Compliance with the interim guideline is currently assessed using dust concentrations measured at the Taplin Street monitoring station, with an allowance for ten exceedance days per year to account for regional dust events and non-industry local dust sources. In 2017-18, the Taplin Street monitoring station recorded nine days above the interim guideline.

The McGowan Government is taking a range of actions to reduce the levels of dust in Port Hedland. Through the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, a best practice dust management guideline will be developed and implemented for the port facilities. The Department will also undertake risk-based reviews of each of the premises, and operation of the air quality monitoring network will be transferred from industry to the Department. Consultation with industry and the community will continue throughout this process.

(d) Further health studies looking at dust in Port Hedland are not planned at this time. The Department of Health’s HRA of 2016, along with data from the air quality monitoring network, provides a contemporary understanding of the dust issue in Port Hedland and has informed the current approach for ongoing Government action to reduce dust levels in Port Hedland’s West End.