#9 Thinking Space Seminar Series w/ Mark Patrick Taylor (Macquarie)

Wednesday 6 May 2015 4.00 - 5.00PM

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Madsen Conference Room 449, The University of Sydney.


Licensed to pollute but not to poison

Thinking Space is the Geography Seminar Series of the School of Geosciences, University of Sydney. The following seminars are open to everyone interested in current innovations in geographical research and cutting edge trends in socio- spatial theory.

“Licensed to pollute but not to poison”.

This talk will detail and examine the impact of significant inconsistencies in pollution licencing, monitoring and reporting from Australia’s leading mining and smelting communities of Mount Isa, Queensland and Port Pirie (South Australia). Aspects of environmental contamination and human health at Broken Hill (NSW) will also be covered, time allowing.

Although emissions to the environment are regulated according to Australia’s national air quality standards, significant atmospheric point source toxic emissions of arsenic, cadmium, lead and sulfur dioxide continue to contaminate these communities. For example, short-term atmospheric contaminant emissions across residential areas from the Mount Isa Mines operations are significant: in 2011, 24-h maximum suspended particulate (TSP) values for lead-in-air and arsenic-in-air were 12.8 μg/m3 and 2973 ng/m3, respectively. The relevant Queensland air quality objectives for lead and arsenic are 0.5 μg/m3 (TSP) and 6 ng/m3 (PM10), respectively, averaged over a year. Mount Isa is also blanketed by elevated sulfur dioxide concentrations, with the Australian and Queensland 1-h air quality standard (0.2 ppm) being exceeded on 55 occasions in 2013. At Port Pirie, contamination of the urban environment is arguably worse with 24-h maximum TSP values for lead-in-air and arsenic-in-air of 22.57 μg /m3 (2011) and 250 ng/m3 (2009), respectively. Port Pirie has an annual average lead-in air standard of 0.5 μg/m3 (TSP) but there are no set values for arsenic. In 2013, the national 1-h standard for sulfur dioxide was exceeded 43 times in Port Pirie.

Despite chronic childhood blood lead exposures lead mining communities, there is a history of denial and downplaying of the source and impact of the contamination. A contributory factor to this pattern of behaviour is the fragmented and inconsistent delivery of data as well as its interpretation in relation to environmental and health impacts from exposures. This study reviews available data sources and makes inference to the impacts from contamination and in doing so, explains why the current regulatory framework fails to protect the impacted communities.

Prof. Mark Patrick Taylor (Macquarie) 

Mark is an environmental scientist with research, teaching and community advocacy interests in contaminated environments, human health, urban riparian systems and environmental law. He has a PhD from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, in geomorphology and environmental science. In 1999 he came to Australia in to work at Macquarie University, where he is now a Professor in Environmental Science. He has also worked as a Commissioner of the NSW Land and Environment Court between 2007 and 2009. Mark holds positions on natural resource advisory boards providing pro bono assistance and scientific support.

For more information on any of the events below, please contact:
Billy Haworth – billy.haworth@sydney.edu.au