Continuing high winds have created havoc for district quarries battling to control dust emanating from their operations.
Some residents say the dust is heavily affecting Marulan and they're worried about health impacts.
Holcim's hard rock operation, 'Lynwood,' has come in for special mention at several community meetings in recent months and attracted the Environment Protection Authority's attention.
A spokeswoman confirmed that the EPA recently added a condition to the quarry's licence, requiring a dust improvement plan. It requires them to implement actions to manage and control dust onsite.
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"This includes monitoring weather conditions and modifying activities on high wind days, modifying plant and equipment used on the quarry and use of crusting agents to prevent wind-blown dust from stockpiles. The company has to regularly review these actions to ensure they are effective," the spokeswoman said.
"The EPA is closely monitoring the effectiveness of these controls and measures through inspections. (We are) communicating regularly with the affected community through phone calls and meetings, and Holcim is required to report fortnightly to the EPA about their dust management and control."
It follows an upsurge in complaints. The EPA said it had received 24 complaints about dust at Lynwood over the past year. A Holcim spokeswoman said the company had received 39 complaints this year, 29 of those since September.
Following the upsurge, she said the company "proactively" reviewed its dust monitoring and management processes.
"...Whilst monitoring results consistently showed compliance, Holcim voluntarility developed a plan to make further improvements," she said.
These included installing more water sprays on conveyors and product stockpiles, increasing the use of water trucks to wet down haul roads, the addition of specialised crusting agents on stockpiles of fine materials and the sales floor to prevent wind blown dust, and improvements in the automated dust control systems.
"Holcim notes that many of these dust control measures involve using water and would like to reassure the community that town water is not used for this purpose. Holcim is fortunate to still have water in our Lynwood Quarry dams and will continue to manage this resource carefully and responsibly," the spokeswoman said.
The EPA licence does not contain specific dust limits but requires Holcim to control and manage it at its source and to implement "best management practices."
The issue was a major topic of discussion at the October 17 Goulburn Mulwaree outreach meeting at Marulan.
Resident Rosemary Turner told The Post there was generally a lot of dust around currently due to the strong winds.
"There's a lot of concern by residents closest to the quarry but Holcim is doing what it can," she said.
"A lot of it is visible and it's getting onto cars and into windows. It's a concern with health and aesthetics and the every day nuisance value."
Both she and Towrang resident, Dennis Isbister were assured by the company's steps to suppress the dust.
Mr Isbister said he lived 6km northwest of the quarry and wasn't affected in the same way as Marulan residents.
"Holcim has been spraying a chemical to harden the surface of very fine granite dust particles so they coagulate and stop blowing away. But it is a problem, although they're doing everything they can to minimise it," he said.
However he told The Post he was "startled" by the council's move to rezone more residential land at Marulan and said people needed to be made aware of the dust problem. The rezoning is recommended in the council's Urban and Fringe Housing Strategy but is dependent on planning proposals coming forward.
The issue also arose at Lynwood's October 25 community consultative committee. A community representative said residents were also worried about increasing water bills from cleaning dust from their properties. Water restrictions were imposed at Marulan on Monday.
Also at that meeting, the company told the committee that covering stockpiles to address the issue would be difficult. In addition, a resident questioned the accuracy of readings, given that some monitors were obscured. Holcim is reassessing the monitors' location.
The company's spokeswoman said results were "consistently below compliance limits" but it was mindful of community concerns.
She said dust could come from many sources and levels were affected by temperature, humidity and wind.
"There is no doubt that extended drought conditions, hot days and strong winds throughout NSW are creating challenging conditions for many at this time, including Lynwood Quarry," she said.
"...Depending on the particular circumstances, including wind direction and speed, Holcim may increase water suppression and/or alter operations to reduce dust generation. For example, Holcim has voluntarily shut down the crushing plant a number of times over the last month in response to high wind events."
The company is holding two information sessions this month as part of its engagement program. They will be held on Wednesday, December 11 at Towrang Hall from 2pm to 8pm and on December 12 at the Marulan community hall from 2pm to 8pm.
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