Good report for Blue Mountains and Lithgow air quality

A year-long study has found the Blue Mountains and Lithgow region enjoys air quality that is generally very good, with air pollutants below Australian air quality standards.

The Blue Mountains and Lithgow Air Watch Project, which aimed to provide a better picture of air quality in the region, was a community-initiated research project supported by the EPA, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and local stakeholders.

Goals of the project were to identify potential sources of air pollutants that may be impacting mountain townships and to analyse and compare data against the health-based air quality standards.

The monitoring project, which ran from June 2019 until May 2020, captured exceptional events during the study period, including major dust storms and the unprecedented 2019-20 summer bushfires.

Vital air quality data from these events has been used to develop a greater understanding of the impacts of bushfire smoke on human health.

The monitoring was carried out using one temporary air quality monitoring station in Katoomba and 12 air quality sensors at Katoomba, Springwood, Wentworth Falls and Lithgow.

EPA Director Regulatory Operations Giselle Howard said the study found that, outside the bushfire period, particulate concentrations in the region were very low and did not vary widely between townships.

“The Air Watch project has confirmed the Blue Mountains region generally enjoys clean, healthy air, which is wonderful news for the community who embraced this project and were actively involved in making sure it was a success,” Ms Howard said.

“Given the severity and proximity of the summer fires, it is not unexpected that the findings show the bushfires had the greatest impact on local air quality and represented a potential public health risk.

“Emissions from industry and traffic were not discernible during the study, but small rises in carbon monoxide and PM2.5 particulates early in the morning, and again at night, may be as a result of wood burning  solid fuel heaters being used.”