Premier flags possibility of covered coal trains to cut dust
QUEENSLAND Premier Campbell Newman has flagged the possibility that coal trains will eventually have to be covered to minimise dust exposure for those living along rail lines - an issue Gladstone residents are more than familiar with.
Speaking on ABC Radio, the Premier revealed he had taken note of the concerns raised in the past week about increasing tonnages through metropolitan urban areas.
"I think it's incumbent upon (the coal mines) to start to move to better forms of practice," Mr Newman said.
"There are chemicals, a type of solution they can spray after the wagon is loaded to try to stop dust.. but I think there's a time in the not too distant future where the community will be right to start to demand the wagons are closed."
Mr Newman said he would take up the issue with Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and Environment Minister Andrew Powell about better practice on coal routes going through the metropolitan areas of Brisbane.
"I think that's something that has to be dealt with. You can't keep expanding tonnages on a line going through metropolitan and urban areas and exposing people to dust," Mr Newman said.
The State Government was last week accused of trying to cover up the volume of potentially harmful dust emanating from loads passing through Brisbane.
The number of coal trains passing through dozens of suburbs in Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba could double under the Port of Brisbane's long-term plan to expand coal exports from Fisherman's Island.
But concerns are mounting over the health risks to residents, with nine million tonnes of coal already shipped through up to 30 suburbs each year.
Some medical experts say coal dust can cause respiratory problems among vulnerable populations and pose a risk of long-term lung and heart disease.
Queensland Health has denied residents are at any risk from the dust, claiming current levels fall within safe guidelines.