New pollution data in Yarraville shows 39 days of breaches of objectives designed to protect human health. The findings provide clear evidence of the pollution impacts of trucks on local communities in the inner west. These levels of pollution have alarming health impacts reflected in appalling health statistics in the City of Maribyrnong.
MTAG teamed up with the Queensland University of Technology to install a ‘KOALA” air monitor on the corner of Williamstown Rd and Francis St in Yarraville. The Victorian EPA recently analysed 12 months worth of data and found that pollution levels breached the PM2.5 (fine particle) daily air quality objective for a staggering 39 days. The annual PM2.5 average measured at 15 µg/m3, almost twice the national standard of 8µg/m3.
To put this into perspective, 2019 monitoring on another section of Francis Street showed a PM2.5 annual average of 9.7µg/m3, with the PM2.5 daily air quality objective exceeding the standard for 8 days. Even these levels are considered unacceptably high and harmful to human health.
This intersection is not industrial, it is residential with apartments, shops and businesses. It’s on this very corner that planning permission has been granted for a new childcare centre. Children’s developing lungs are much more susceptible to air pollution than adults. MTAG does not believe that a more inappropriate location for a child care centre could be found in Victoria.
The City of Maribyrnong has some of the worst health statistics for air pollution related diseases. The recent Inner West Air Quality Community Reference Group (IWAQCRG) report – Air Pollution in Melbourne’s Inner West – highlighted alarming health stats in Melbourne’s Inner West. We have the highest rate of hospital admission for stroke in all of Victoria. We also have some of the state’s highest rates of premature mortality for respiratory system disease and heart failure. This is despite Maribyrnong having below average smoking and obesity rates and a much younger than average population. Our kids do not get off lightly either with Victoria’s highest hospital admission rates for children with asthma. Our stats are worse than our neighbours in Brimbank and Hobson’s Bay with the major difference being some 8 million truck movements per year in the City of Maribyrnong.
This new data clearly shows that the time for talk is over, we need action now to reduce these alarming air pollution levels. The number one action for our state government should be phasing out the old polluting trucks servicing the Port of Melbourne.
Australia‘s truck fleet is one of the oldest in the OECD countries at 15 years, with only Mexico and a handful or Eastern European countries having an older fleet. Older trucks pump out far more damaging pollution than new trucks with EuroV or better emission controls. A recent AUSTROADS report ‘Options for managing the impacts of aged heavy vehicles’ found that older trucks can impose a pollution-related health cost of up to $21,000 per truck for every year they are operating in an urban area like Yarraville. The report recommends using complementary measures to address old trucks, for example combining measures such as low emission zones, differentiated registration charging, scrapping schemes and retrofitting. As the report states, no single measure on its own will reduce the effects of old trucks, a coordinated approach is needed.
The State government recently announced measures to curb pollution in the inner west that includes the ‘Drive easy program’ and ‘Green Wave technology’ to help reduce truck pollution. MTAG does not believe that tweaking traffic lights and improving traffic flows will be enough to improve such poor pollution levels. There are great examples around the world that have reduced the impacts of old trucks quickly, easily and in cost effective manner. In Europe or the USA none of these proposed State Government measures would be considered as part of a low emission zone solutions as they will make very little impact without actually removing the old trucks from our streets.
With the opening of the West Gate Tunnel project some inner west streets are going to experience huge increases in truck numbers. Williamstown Road, a residential street lined with houses and community activity centres including a nearby school, sports oval, tennis courts and skate park will get an almost doubling in truck numbers. These community facilities are primarily used by our children.
If you think the air pollution levels are bad now, what will the levels be with a projected doubling of trucks on Williamstown Road? It’s beyond comprehension that this government is going to send even more tucks down this inappropriate residential street.