A Bluff resident shared this photo of the water after it was used to wipe down the solar panels in February, 2020.
A Bluff resident shared this photo of the water after it was used to wipe down the solar panels in February, 2020.

Community ‘disgusted’ with dust levels in CQ town

A SMALL Central Queensland community is disgusted with the amount of coal dust in the town since a local mine started operating, coating their homes, cars and solar panels with a thick dust.

Many Bluff residents say they moved to the small town for the peacefulness of the community.

Aside from the many trains passing through, locals described Bluff as a clean and quiet town. However, that changed in 2018 with the development of Bluff Coal Mine, located less than 1km from the township.

Mona Saunders, 59, has lived in Bluff on and off for most of her life and said while people expected dust in mining towns, she has never seen anything like what they were experiencing.

"One day you can wipe things over and the next it will be back," she said.

"Cleaning never used to be an everyday job but to be on top of it now you have to do it everyday.

"It really is disgusting."

Colin Stephenson shared these photos of fresh rain water from a shower in Bluff in April. It came through the dusty gutters.
Colin Stephenson shared these photos of fresh rain water from a shower in Bluff in April. It came through the dusty gutters.

And it's not just outside, the dust has settled on the inside of many homes, with residents forced to keep their windows shut to avoid it.

"I'm a bit further west, on the edge of Bluff, but I really feel for those living within the vicinity of the mine site," Ms Saunders said.

"We've had drought, we've had dusty roads, but it's never ever been this extreme. And to think we are all breathing it in. It's pretty bloody depressing and it definitely has to be addressed."

Ms Saunders said she initially welcomed the mine because she loved seeing progress in the small town, but it seems to have had the opposite effect on the community.

Many community members have aired their concerns on the Bluff in the Dust Facebook group, specifically created as a space for residents to share information about how the Bluff Mine has impacted them.

Tammy Beath and her husband originally moved from Blackwater to Bluff to get some relief from constant hay fever that came with living near mine sites.

Colin Stephenson shared a photo of his ute which hadn't been used or cleaned in one week.
Colin Stephenson shared a photo of his ute which hadn't been used or cleaned in one week.

She was completely hay fever free until the Bluff mine operation began, which has since led to more than a year of illness and constant cold like symptoms.

Ms Beath, who works at the mines, says her body could handle the dust during 12-hour shifts as long as she had a dust free environment when she got home and on days off.

"Now I don't even have that dust free time, it's all the time," she said.

"My doctor told me to leave Bluff on a holiday and I came good in a week. I come back here and I'm back at square one.

"I'm sick of feeling like I have a head cold all the time."

Department of Environment and Science (DES) spokesman told CQ News they had been responding to an increasing number of community reports about dust nuisance since Carabella Resources began operating the Bluff Coal Mine in 2018.

"Carabella Resources's Environmental Authority (EA) requires the company to conduct air quality monitoring to ensure there are no adverse impacts on health and no environmental nuisance from dust and particulate emissions," he said.

"Following community concerns and a review of the results of the mine's air monitoring program, DES issued an Environmental Protection Order (EPO) on 27 May 2020 to Carabella Resources.

"Under the EPO Carabella must conduct a dust-monitoring program consistent with the conditions set out in its EA. Non-compliance with an EPO is considered to be a serious offence by DES."

Colin Stephenson shared these photos of his guttering filled with black sludge from the coal dust.
Colin Stephenson shared these photos of his guttering filled with black sludge from the coal dust.

The EPO follows a warning DES issued to Carabella on April 30, 2020, for failing to comply with the EA conditions for a dust-monitoring program, the spokesman said.

"The department continues to engage with Carabella to ensure it complies with its EA conditions."

Colin Stephenson has lived at Bluff for close to five years and said the crib huts on the mines are no where near as dusty as what his own home is.

"It's worse than any dust I've encountered on any mine site," he said.

"We never had it before the mine started so it's pretty hard to blame anything else for it.

"They reckon they have monitors places around town but I don't believe that."

Mr Stephenson was worried about the long-term effects and rust issues that could possibly arise concerning his car and gutters.

"The dust covers everything. You put the vehicle through a car wash one day and the next day it's absolutely covered again," he said.

A weekly sweep under Stephen Wilson's house.
A weekly sweep under Stephen Wilson's house.

He has to keep his rain water tank covered to prevent it filling with the coal dust, because "it comes down the roof and gutters".

"I could wash the house every week if I wanted to be fanatical about it," he said.

"You have to gurney the barbecue and outdoor setting every time you want to use it. It's getting beyond a joke."

Another Bluff resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, says he has to clean his solar panels more than three times a year, but within a week they are already covered in dust again.

"It used to be a nice town to live in. I liked living there but now it's noisy and dusty and I don't really want to be there anymore," he said.

DES established air monitoring stations in Blackwater in 2019, as well as Emerald in February 2020, and Moranbah in 2011. A second station in Moranbah was deployed in June 2020.

Monitoring across Central Queensland shows that air quality is generally within acceptable limits. When exceedances occur, these are generally due to regional events such as bushfires or dust storms a DES spokesman said.

Residents with concerns about dust nuisance are encouraged to call the Pollution Hotline on 1300 130 372.

Carabella Resources was approached for comment this week but had not responded by 2.30pm Friday.


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