I’ve lived in the Latrobe Valley for the past six years and it’s been challenging, unpleasant and difficult. When I look through my kitchen window, I can see the constant plumes of pollution from the coal power stations and mines, especially the dirtiest power station in Australia, Yallourn. This pollution makes it a very unhealthy place to live, the levels of pollutants PM2.5 and PM10 are disgusting! This place should come with a warning – “enter at your own risk!”
Because of the pollution, I have experienced a lot of health impacts. I have had severe pneumonia twice. It’s now been recommended by my doctors that I move away to protect myself.
And I’m not the only one, I have heard stories from many residents in the Valley that are experiencing health effects, including respiratory issues, cognitive impairment and skin disorders. I also work at a local school and many of the children there suffer from asthma and other respiratory problems. Plus, there are lots of rumours about local cancer clusters too.
And there is also the “Valley Cough” which is so prevalent. I hear it in the carriage as I catch the train to Melbourne for work at two other schools, where I notice the children are so much healthier.
There are of course things the power stations could do to reduce the amount of pollution they emit, like installing better filters but that would cost millions, so the coal power plants don’t want to do it. Plus, because this is a poorer area it feels like there is less concern by the government about our quality of life. Many locals would like to leave but it is often not a realistic financial option for them, but I do know some people who relocated due to related health issues from the pollution. Unless the pollution is fixed soon it is likely I will have to move too.
I’d like for the minsters and government to come and stay here for several months to experience what it’s really like – the heaviness in the chest, laboured breathing, metallic taste in the back of one’s mouth and the general brain fogginess that you experience after living in the polluted air. You can literally see the coal ash everywhere on people’s homes and cars.
Maybe then they will take the problem seriously, close the power stations and help the us secure a future where everyone can breathe fresh air and smell the roses wherever they live.
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