I’ve lived in the Latrobe Valley since I was 10 years old. About three years ago I decided to move back to the south side of Morwell. I had lived here before, about 10 years ago and always wanted to move back but was put off because it was closer to Hazelwood and the open cut. After, they announced that Hazelwood would be closing soon I thought it was a good opportunity to move back.
Still, I was concerned about the risks of coal dust, especially what was left over from the mine fire, so I did a lot of research before I moved, which all said that it was safe and the dust from the mine fire had been cleaned from the affected houses. So, I brought my house.
As soon as I moved in, I noticed a lot of black dust on the windowsills and gathering on the outdoor furniture. It got so bad I was afraid to let my granddaughter play with any of her outside toys unless I cleaned them first.
Now, three years later, and with other existing health conditions, I can’t keep up with the dust in my house. I’m basically cleaning every day.
A few months ago I was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease. My doctors say it is definitely made worse by the dust and pollution in the area.
“Some people have told me I should move away. But how can I move away knowing that another family could move into this house and experience the same problems I do? I’m already sick, so in some ways it makes sense for me to stay here.”
Plus, all my money is invested in this house. When I moved in it was my dream house – it even has a pool. Now it’s a nightmare, because of the dust I can hardly even use the pool anymore.
Earlier this year I decided to get some private testing of the dust in my house, to see if it was a toxic as I thought. The results that came back were shocking, the dust was full of heavy metals like mercury and lead and the antimony levels were almost off the charts.
I’ve shared the findings with the EPA, local council and local MP, as well as the manager at the mine they all say there is not much they can do.
Until I moved to this house, I thought about the coal pollution, the same way that most people who is the Valley do. I didn’t think it was that bad, just a fact of life living here. My Dad worked at Yallourn for many years, I knew that the power stations were important to the local community.
But, since I’ve moved here I’ve seen just how bad the impacts of coal power can be. I’ve also learnt that Australia is behind lots of other countries in controlling and recognising the health effects of coal pollution. Even in China they have admitted that there are health risks from coal, but in Australia our government doesn’t really acknowledge the risks and our power stations are allowed to continue generating toxic pollution and dust.
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