‘OUTRAGEOUS’: A scientist has hit back at claims National Pollutant Inventory data is exaggerated.
‘OUTRAGEOUS’: A scientist has hit back at claims National Pollutant Inventory data is exaggerated. Jim Campbell

Scientist calls resource industry claims absurd

How accurate is NPI air quality monitoring?

One of the architects behind the National Pollutant Inventory has slammed claims that its reporting method over-exaggerated pollution levels.

Following the release of NPI data that showed particle pollution had doubled from Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay in the past year, Queensland Resources Council acting chief executive Greg Lane said there had been "industry wide concerns regarding the accuracy of the NPI method".

"Specifically, recent research indicates the process of calculating emissions significantly overestimates the true amounts. Nationally work is underway to review and address NPI's limitations," Mr Lane said.

But Dr James Whelan, a scientist with Environmental Justice Australia who helped develop the NPI in 1998, has dubbed the statement "outrageous".

He said when the organisation was first put together it had lobbied for an independent body to report emissions.

Instead, each major polluting industry reports its pollution using a hand book developed by that industry.

"It's outrageous for the Queensland Resources Council to claim the estimate is inaccurate," Dr Whelan said.

"Asking resource companies to monitor pollution levels is like asking sharks to monitor child safety in swimming pools.

"There is every reason for the industry to underexaggerate."

But Queensland Resource Council chief executive Michael Roche reiterated he believed the data was questionable and said updating the industry manual was government's responsibility.

Should we have more air quality monitors?

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"The accuracy of the mining related data is questionable, with recent research confirming that the formulas used to estimate dust emissions from mining overestimate actual emissions," Mr Roche said.

"Adopting revised emission factors and control efficiencies (as per the research) into NPI reporting and other air emissions inventories will provide better data on which to assess the industry's emissions, in particular PM10."

Instead, Mr Roche pointed to Queensland Government air pollution monitoring station which rated Mackay's air quality as "good".

Do we have enough air quality monitoring stations?

The fact there's only one government-owned air quality monitoring system in the Bowen Basin is extraordinary, according to Environmental Justice Australia scientist Dr James Whelan.

By comparison he said the Hunter Valley has 17, excluding Newcastle which had another five.

"It's just extraordinary. Why would you not monitor and inform the community in an on-going, live-to-air way so they can make informed health decisions?" Dr Whelan said.

He referred to a government website which showed there was one station in Mackay and one in Moranbah.

Gladstone had six and Townsville had two.

Mining companies also own monitoring systems, but Dr Whelan said getting information from them was nearly impossible for the public.

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