Pollution warning on North East Link

Vehicle emissions along the $16 billion North East Link will exceed the state’s new air pollution standards, with the Eastern Freeway also predicted to fail pollution checks as an extra 100,000 vehicles come onto the road each day.

Air pollution modelling prepared for the state government finds that by 2036, the amount of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) on the mega-project will exceed daily limits at several points along the yet-to-be-built road in Melbourne’s north-east, creating poor air quality in the surrounding areas.

The predicted amount of PM2.5 — which the World Health Organisation has declared is carcinogenic — will exceed new targets the state government is introducing by 2025, two years before the road is completed.

The North East Link will lead to 100,000 more cars on the Eastern Freeway each day.Credit:Eddie Jim

The modelling also shows an increase in the amount of PM2.5 on the Eastern Freeway — which will be widened to up to 24 lanes to cater for 100,000 extra vehicles each day once the North East Link is built, causing the air quality to worsen from “moderate” to “poor”, according to the state Environment Protection Authority’s rating system.

Lower Plenty, Rosanna and Williamstown roads, the Chandler Highway and the M80 Ring Road are among the 25 roads included in the model, with air quality at these sites found to be poor and in breach of the standards.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that more than 3000 Australians die early from urban air pollution each year — far more than the 1182 Australians who died on the country’s roads last year.

Associate Professor Lou Irving, who is the respiratory physician at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and director of respiratory and sleep medicine at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, said the pollution breaches were a concern.

Pollution levels considered “good” by the EPA still posed a small level of harm to vulnerable groups like children, the elderly and those with breathing problems. Banning Diesel fuel and investing more in electric vehicles would help with keeping pollution to a minimum, he said.

“The problem is not necessarily the road itself, it’s what’s travelling on the road,” he said.

Environmental Justice Australia lawyer Bronya Lipski said the standards on air pollution should be adhered to. “The World Health Organisation says there is no safe exposure level to PM2.5. We should be working towards reducing that air pollution as much as possible.”

The North East Link Project will build provisions for pollution control equipment in the tunnel ventilation stacks and builders will monitor air quality after the project opens.

This content was originally published here.

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