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Near Grindelwald, Tamar Valley, 2009 ... and the smoke blankets all ...

Back in 2008/09 Tasmania was blanketed with shocking planned burn smoke. It was happening before this but let’s start here. In fact there was so much smoke it was hard to pinpoint where the burns were.

I can remember looking at my flag to get an idea of wind direction, donning a facemask and driving around looking for tell-tale signs.

On a bad day it reminded me of when I worked for Ansett Airlines and took off from Essendon airport to fly back home to Tassie in the jump seat and hit low rain cloud shortly after take-off; it was just like throwing a grey blanket over your head and daylight turns to night.

Living elevated at Grindelwald made it a bit easier. I could see for many miles in most directions.

But smoke had the advantage, it could travel further than what I could see.

This pernicious smoke had become a matter of life or death for me so I started up a website called cleanairtas.com http://www.cleanairtas.com and later added ‘smoke watch’ to it. Other people were having the same health problem and started to contact me to let me know where they had observed burns and/or smoke. This was not stopping the smoke but it gave me some ammo to use late in the night when I couldn’t sleep because of smoke induced asthma and life-saving drugs.

It also gave me more time to observe smoke travel in the state.

I would drive down to Brady’s Lookout just a few kilometres north on the West Tamar Highway. From there I could watch the deadly smoke clouds coming in on the prevailing weather.

Where was some of this smoke coming from I wondered? Then I learnt that PM10’s can travel a 100 Km and Pm2.5’s a 1000Km and be airborne for days.

It was hard to get anybody to listen when you could not pinpoint a burn. Many times I wondered why WE had to this detective work when we had agencies that surely must have known who was planned burning and who was not.

From my vantage spot I could see smoke mostly coming across from the West. Some smoke further out to the coast would glide straight past towards our North East. At times smoke closer in would break into two; some would carry on to our North East and some would turn and come into the Tamar Valley. On other occasions all the smoke would turn and come into the Tamar Valley.

I also observed planned burn smoke doing the opposite when burns were lit in the N/E and the wind was right.

At about that time our EPA Air Section was setting up the Base-Line Air Network of EPA Tasmania. BLANkET is a system of air monitoring stations that report air quality in almost real time:

http://epa.tas.gov.au/epa/real-time-air-quality-data-for-tasmania

Armed with anecdotal evidence it was time to talk to the EPA.

With a pulp mill proposed for the lower Tamar Valley I guess it was not the time to be discussing forestry smoke coming right past their door and up into Launceston, a city of one hundred thousand people, but having worked in a stinking pulp mill I thought it WAS just the right time!

It was agreed a BLANkET station would be commissioned at Exeter and is still in operation.

The Rowella main station has since been decommissioned.

According to an EPA Update 9th January 2013:

The station at Rowella was established by the Regional Planning and Development Council (RPDC) in 2006 to obtain a year of base-line air quality data in the lower Tamar valley prior to construction and operation of the proposed Long Reach pulp mill. The Environment Division (now the EPA Division) formally took over operation of Rowella station in December 2007. The station had continued to operate to obtain further base-line air quality data for particle concentration (by TEOM) and several gas species. In September 2012 the decision was made to cease operation of this station. The Rowella station is currently being dismantled. If circumstances change in the future an assessment will be made of the need for a resumption of monitoring in the lower Tamar.

Gunns tried to say it was not a N/W wind that would bring their pollution into Launceston but was no-wind drainage from the highlands surrounding Launceston which was completely in the wrong direction.

This of course was disputed by cleanairtas when wind rising from George Town, Rowella and Ti Tree Bend was analysed. http://cleanairtas.com/gunns-pulp-mill/gunns-pulp-mill.htm

Now let’s move forward in time to the 15th October 2014.

All the air quality readings that have been gathered by our EPA Air Section, who incidentally I have the utmost respect for, are now recorded history.

So is my anecdotal evidence that smoke comes from across Tasmania and into the Tamar valley.

Go here http://epa.tas.gov.au/documents/btr_29_turn_right_tamar_rs.pdf  to read “Turn right at the Tamar” where smoke from a PWS planned burn as far away as Temma on our Tasmanian west coast ended up in the Tamar valley and Launceston.

When our authorities plan to undertake planned burning in Tasmania, think again. Someone else is going to be breathing your residue. You have no right to force the population to breathe carcinogens when there are safer ways. Go here http://cleanairtas.com/departments/alternative-solutions.htm

Never again should we hear the words ‘nuisance smoke’; it is not just a nuisance, it is deadly.

And again, if anybody is thinking about a pulp mill in the Tamar valley; FORGET IT.