Assessing environmental contamination from metal emission and relevant regulations in major areas of coal mining and electricity generation in Australia

Larissa Schneider, Neil L. Rose, Anna Lintern, Darren Sinclair, Atun Zawadzki, Cameron Holley, Marco A. Aquino-López, Simon Haberle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The Hunter and Latrobe Valleys have two of the richest coal deposits in Australia. They also host the largest coal-fired power stations in the country. We reconstructed metal deposition records in lake sediments in the Hunter and Latrobe Valleys to determine if metal deposition in freshwater lakes have increased in the region. The current regulatory arrangement applied to metal emissions from coal-fired power stations in Australia are presented, discussing their capacity to address future increases in metal deposition from these sources. Sediment records of spheroidal carbonaceous particles (SCPs), a component of fly-ash, were also used as an additional line of evidence to identify the contribution of industrial activities related to electricity generation to metal deposition in regions surrounding open-cut coal mines and coal-fired power stations. Sediment metal concentrations and SCP counts in the sedimentary records, from the Hunter and Latrobe Valleys, both indicated that open-cut coal mining and the subsequent combustion of coal in power stations has most likely resulted in an increase in atmospheric deposition of metals in the local region. In particular, the metalloids As and Se showed the greatest enrichment compared to before coal mining commenced. Although the introduction of bag filters at Liddell Power Station and the decommissioning of Hazelwood Power Station appear to have resulted in a decrease of metal deposition in nearby lakes, overall metal deposition in the environment is still increasing. The challenge for the years to come will be to develop better regulation policies and tools that will contribute to reduce metal emissions in these major electricity production centres in Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number137398
Number of pages15
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume728
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020

Keywords

  • Bituminous coal
  • Hunter Valley
  • Latrobe Valley
  • Lignite coal
  • Metal deposition

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