Contaminated Dust in Townsville

The edge of the port (left) in relation to the Townsville CBD and inner residential areas

Toxic dust has long been a concern of Townsville residents. Being home to a large industrial port, it is no great surprise that Townsville is exposed to various forms of dust. The location of the port so close to the CBD, the strand and residential areas means that any potential exposure caused by the port would have a large and immediate impact. Its high visibility also ensures it remains a point of community concern.

In late 2014, NQCC commissioned Professor Mark Taylor from Macquarie University to undertake a study of the situation downwind of the port. His ensuing report, Atmospherically Deposited Metal and Metalloid Dust Contamination in Inner Townsville, was made public in November 2104, following a presentation to invited port stakeholders.

The work was subsequently written up for publication and, after peer review, published in the Journal Science of the Total Environment, 515-516 (2015) 143-152. The report and associated published paper, originally downplayed by the Port and State Government, continued to attract considerable public attention. Click here for our blog posts on the issue and here to check our archive for older posts.

In March 2015, the Port agreed to set up a group PSWG Terms of Reference to look at the issues involved. The first meeting of the Port Stakeholders Working Group (PSWG) was held on 7 April.

Around the table were representatives of:

  • NQCC (Wendy Tubman and Bill Laing, later replaced by Charlie McColl)
  • Townsville City Council
  • BHP Billiton (Cannington)
  • Glendora, Queensland Nickel
  • Townsville Bulk Storage and Handling
  • Northern Stevedoring Services
  • the Departments of  Environment and Heritage Protection, and Science, IT and Innovation
  • Queensland Health and
  • the Port of Townsville.

By the following meeting, and following a public call and selection by members of the PSWG, four committee representatives (Judy Newman, Ian Ferguson, Clive Berger, James Hobbs) had been appointed.

In August 2016 the group released the monthly Operations Data Dashboard. The dashboard is the result of 15 months effort by the group to increase transparency and accountability to the public

The Operations Data Dashboard presents information on:

  • The purpose of the PSWG
  • The type of equipment used to measure air quality in Townsville and by whom
  • Cargo types handled at the Townsville Port
  • Access to live air quality readings from the XACT Monitor at the CoastGuard
  • Monthly data graphs from three monitoring sites showing
    • General total dust levels
    • Lead in dust levels
    • General dust deposition levels
  • Shipping data (vessel type, commodity, date, berth visited) both retrospective and on a live schedule
  • Climatic data from the Bureau of Meteorology

On September 6 2016 Charlie McColl released an article through NQCC, Townsville Port Still Battling Lead Dust Pollution, in response to the release of the Operations Data Dashboard. The article outlines the need for more work to be done to account for lead dust pollution from the port and to further reduce the levels Townsville is exposed to.

PSWG Data Dashboard

Data Dashboard August 2016

Data Dashboard June 2016

PSWG Meeting Minutes

PSWG July 2016 minutes • PSWG May 2016 minutes • PSWG April 2016 minutes • PSWG February 2016 minutes • PSWG January 2016 minutes

PSWG November 2015 minutes • PSWG October 2015 minutes • PSWG September 2015 minutes • PSWG August 2015 minutes • PSWG July 2015 Minutes • PSWG June 2015 Minutes • PSWG May 2015 Minutes • PSWG April 2015 Minutes

PSWG Meeting Presentations
Media Statements from the PSWG
Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation's Air Quality Bulletins

• Last updated 13/10/2016

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