EPA IN THE LATROBE VALLEY

HISTORY OF THE EPA IN THE LATROBE VALLEY

The EPA has monitored air quality in the Latrobe Valley over the last three decades.8

The EPA has 14 permanent monitoring stations (also known as reference stations) located in Victoria. One of these permanent monitoring stations is located in Traralgon. This is the only permanent station in Victoria located outside the Melbourne metropolitan area.9

Permanent monitoring stations are established under the National Environmental Protection Council (Ambient Air Quality) Measure (National Ambient Air Quality standard), which uses a population-based formula for determining the location of stations. According to the national standard, the EPA is not required to have a permanent monitoring station in the Latrobe Valley.10 However, due to significant emissions to air from power generating activities, the EPA has placed a permanent monitoring station in the area.11

PERMANENT AIR MONITORING STATION AT TRARALGON

The Traralgon monitoring station was established in 1981.12 It monitors PM10, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and sulphur dioxide.

The EPA advised the Board that the Traralgon monitoring station was due to be upgraded in February 2014 to also monitor PM2.5, but that this was delayed due to the Hazelwood mine fire. The EPA confirmed that this upgrade is now complete.13

The Traralgon monitoring station captured data on air quality in the Latrobe Valley throughout the Hazelwood mine fire.

MONITORING CAMPAIGN AT HOURIGAN ROAD, MORWELL (EAST)

For 12 months from 2012–2013, the EPA conducted an air quality monitoring campaign through a monitoring station located in Hourigan Rd in the eastern part of Morwell. This station was established to monitor local air pollution predominately from the local power industry. The results of this monitoring campaign were published on the EPA’s website and showed that air quality was at acceptable levels. The monitoring station was decommissioned at the end of the 12 month period, but had not been removed at the time of the Hazelwood mine fire.14

The monitoring station was recommissioned on 12 February 2014 by the EPA in response to the Hazelwood mine fire.

EPA AND LATROBE CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS

In 2013, at the invitation of the Latrobe City Council, the EPA and the Council met to discuss air quality monitoring in the Latrobe Valley. Two meetings were held in 2013, one in April and the other in September. These meetings were attended by Mr John Merritt, former Chief Executive Officer of the EPA, along with a number of EPA staff including Dr Paul Torre, Science Officer at the EPA, in his substantive role as Team Principal Expert, Air Quality, and Dieter Meltzer, EPA’s Gippsland Regional Manager. A number of councillors from Latrobe City Council attended both meetings.15

Latrobe City Council raised a range of environment-related issues with the EPA during these meetings. These included:

  • A request by Councillors for a review of the air monitoring stations and air quality in the Latrobe Valley. Councillors felt that permanent monitoring stations in the Latrobe Valley needed to be expanded beyond the permanent station in Traralgon in order to provide adequate and ongoing air quality monitoring in the region due to its unique industry profile. They requested that the EPA make the Hourigan Road monitoring station permanent. The EPA committed to reviewing the number of air quality monitoring stations in the Latrobe Valley.
  • A concern that the Latrobe Valley Air Monitoring Network (LVAMN) that was established prior to privatisation of the mines in the area under the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) was not as well-resourced as it once was.
  • EPA communication with the community could be improved regarding air quality data and information, particularly in response to environmental events/emergencies. The Latrobe City Council raised the Morwell River collapse into the Yallourn mine and subsequent water pumping into the Morwell and Latrobe Rivers as examples of too little information being provided by the EPA. The EPA acknowledged that its communication with the community could have been better in these instances.16