I haven’t been sick as much in my entire life as I have been in the last 12 years since I moved to the Latrobe Valley. Mostly I get respiratory and sinus symptoms, sore throat, difficulty breathing and a cough. As soon as I go away from the Valley it seems to get better but when I get home, it comes back. I deliberately choose a job with lots of travel, so I am not stuck in the Valley and can get out when I need to.
I get a lot of coal dust ‘fall out’ at my house. When I hose off the outdoor furniture all that comes off is brown dust – which is the burnt lignite settling from the air. I try to spend as little time as possible outside because of the dust. I tend to drive further away if I want to exercise or be outside. To keep fit, I cycle about 80km-100km per week but will make sure I go further out into the Strzelecki Ranges to avoid the pollution.
On a clear day, you can see the pollution from the coal power stations, it is like a big grey streak curving across the sky before it drops down on the towns. I’ve lived in other areas with pollution, including the city when lead petrol was still normal and near factories and I did not have the health issues I have now.
My doctors have recommended that I move away from the area for my health, but despite the pollution, I like living here and it’s close to my job and my family.
I have three children and they have all experienced health effects too. Growing up in the Valley they experienced the impacts of coal power and now two of my kids work in careers that are helping to reduce the effects of coal pollution.
I know lots of people are concerned about employment if the power stations close, but I believe there’s a lot of hope for the Valley that doesn’t require coal power stations. And a lot of opportunities to create new jobs, especially jobs for young people, so they can stay here and aren’t forced to move away after school.
We could have thousands of tech and call centre jobs – like we are starting to see with Aussie Broadband and Telstra setting up call centres here – and manufacturing jobs too. There aren’t many young people working at the power stations any more anyway.
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