Air quality monitoring project in Blue Mountains kicks off Information on local air quality

The first week of air quality testing in the Blue Mountains has begun, following an intensive community campaign to make it happen.

Commissioned by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), the 12 month project - called Blue Mountains and Lithgow Air Watch - started on Tuesday May 14 and will measure Katoomba's air quality every hour. There are smaller sensors measuring air pollutants close to the highway at Springwood and Wentworth Falls, as well as at Lithgow.

NSW EPA regional director metropolitan, Giselle Howard, said it will provide a valuable picture of air quality.

The nearest NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) monitoring stations are at Bathurst and St Marys. Wentworth Falls' air quality was briefly monitored (and cleared) for pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, in 1988-89.

The move follows more than a year of campaigning by the Blue Mountains Unions and Community group, who have been particularly concerned by the effects of uncovered coal being transported on the train line.

Spokesman Peter Lammiman said the initiative "lays the foundation for ... near real time information about local air quality".

"We look forward to working alongside community participants, the EPA and air quality experts. Fresh air is one of the reasons so many people visit the world heritage-listed Blue Mountains ... through this project we should begin to find out just how clean our air is."

Ms Howard said the temporary Katoomba air quality monitoring station, will be operated by OEH for 12 months and measure carbon monoxide, fine particles (PM 10 and PM 2.5), sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, carbon ozone, visibility and meteorology.

"In addition, 12 portable solar powered Koala (knowing our ambient local air quality) sensors, operated by the Queensland University of Technology, are located in Katoomba, Springwood, Wentworth Falls (Bodington Hill) and Lithgow to provide indicative information on ambient air quality that will complement data from the Katoomba station."

The project is run with the help of Mountains community groups, OEH, Blue Mountains and Lithgow councils, Doctors for the Environment, Western Sydney University, Lithgow Environment Group and the local health district. Schools, business and community volunteers are hosting the sensors. The Katoomba station is on property owned by Air Services Australia. In the first few days the readings were either good or very good.