4.7 Management strategies
This report clearly indicates that reducing emissions from solid fuel heaters is a high priority in some higher altitude regional centres in the Great Dividing Range with topography that tends to collect air for long periods.
These emissions have already been tackled on a number of fronts. A revised Australian Standard adopted in NSW sets emission limits for particles from new solid fuel heaters. Lower particle emissions will lead to a proportional reduction in emissions of PAHs. This standard has been formally adopted in the Clean Air (Domestic Solid Fuel Heaters) Regulation 1997.
The NSW Government has committed $1 million to the Clean Air Fund in 2002 to reduce smoke in the regional areas identified in the study as having high levels of pollution: Armidale, Cooma, Lithgow, Orange and Tumut (plus the Blue Mountains). Under the program, home owners and businesses are offered a financial incentive to replace older, more polluting heaters with new, cleaner alternatives. The program is also supporting local council education and enforcement programs to ensure heaters are operated properly and do not emit excessive smoke.
The Government has actively promoted better use of solid fuel heaters through education campaigns, including publication of the EPA 1999 guideline, Selecting, Installing and Operating Domestic Solid Fuel Heaters. Other education programs include `Don't light tonight, unless your heater's right' alerts when weather conditions threaten the dispersal of particle pollution in the metropolitan region; screening of information on better operation of heaters on regional television; and a comprehensive website on woodsmoke.
Under State planning legislation, local councils are able to tailor local planning instruments to prevent or restrict the installation of solid fuel heaters. Pittwater and Waverley Councils have recently amended their Development Control Plans and Local Environmental Plans to restrict the installation of new heaters in their local areas. Other councils, such as Blue Mountains, Eurobodalla, Rockdale and Wollongong have published revised local approvals policies which clearly specify their requirements for installing heaters.
Local councils are also able to prevent owners allowing their heaters to emit excessive smoke by issuing notices under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. In 2001, Armidale Dumaresq Council actively promoted its capacity and willingness to use these notices at times when householders ignore council requests for better operation of woodheaters. The council has reported some improvements in local air quality as a result of this program.
A review of the Clean Air (Domestic Solid Fuel Heaters) Regulation 1997 is considering giving councils additional powers to issue on-the-spot fines for poor operation of solid fuel heaters.
The effectiveness of this comprehensive program on solid fuel heaters will continue to be monitored to determine whether additional initiatives are needed to achieve the necessary reductions in woodsmoke and associated PAHs. The incentive scheme for the replacement of solid fuel heaters will be specifically reviewed in late 2002 to evaluate its effectiveness and consider whether to extend the program to other local government areas.
A number of strategies to reduce emissions of organic pollutants from mobile sources are also effective in reducing emissions of PAHs. Those that will have a direct impact on PAHs are:
- New vehicle emission standards will mean vehicles will have to meet tighter performance targets for a range of pollutants (which will also lead to reductions in PAHs). For many vehicles, new-generation catalysts will be required, which will reduce emissions of PAHs. The most significant improvement will be lower emissions from diesel vehicles. To meet these standards, many vehicles will require catalysts or particulate traps which will reduce emissions of PAHs as particles.
As vehicle technology gradually improves and the vehicle fleet turns over, older more polluting vehicles will travel less and gradually make a smaller overall regional contribution to emissions. This effect will be particularly significant as pre-1986 cars without catalytic converters disappear from the road.
- Fuel quality standards: Some of the PAHs in diesel exhaust are a consequence of the PAH content of the fuel. New fuel regulations will set limits on total aromatic content of diesel fuel from 1 January 2006, which will in turn reduce PAH emissions across the whole fleet and not only new vehicles.
- The Diesel National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) has outlined strategies for the States to follow to reduce emissions from diesel vehicles. While PAHs are not explicitly targeted, diesel vehicles are known to be a significant source of many air toxics and so programs to reduce diesel emissions will lead to a commensurate reduction in PAHs. Regular testing of all diesel buses in the State Transit fleet has begun and those that do not meet emission standards, according to respective bus type and age, are repaired.
Some of the vehicle-related benefits will be undermined if vehicle use increases. The Government's Action for Air and Action for Transport 2010 strategies include a range of measures to reduce vehicle use.
The EPA smoky vehicle enforcement program is an effective way of reducing the number of smoky vehicles on the road and thus associated PAH emissions. The EPA receives over 700 reports from the public each month on smoky vehicles. Since early 2002 it has been possible to report smoky vehicles via the EPA website.
PAHs are usually generated as a by-product of the incomplete combustion of organic material. The EPA regulates PAHs by controlling the effectiveness of combustion processes, as indicated by the carbon monoxide or particle emissions they produce. By controlling these pollutants, the PAHs produced are also controlled. Where an industrial process is particularly associated with PAH emissions, a specific monitoring program may be required to confirm that emission levels are acceptable.
Similarly, pollution reduction programs to capture and control emissions of particles and organic compounds will also reduce PAHs. The reduction programs described in Section 3.6 (`Industrial and commercial sources') have resulted in significant reductions in PAH emissions, as borne out by ambient monitoring by BHP of four sites at Port Kembla since 1989.
Flexible controls on open burning
The revised Clean Air (Control of Burning) Regulation was gazetted in September 2000 to control burning in the open and incinerators. The key features of the Regulation are:
- a focus on controlling what is burnt-councils can choose to regulate all burning or allow burning of vegetation or waste in parts of their areas
- bans on home-unit incinerators from 1 September 2001
- increased penalties for burning offences
- bushfire hazard reduction burning is exempt from this Regulation.
The EPA may also issue `no burn' notices under section 133 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 to prohibit or control burning. Section 133 notices are generally issued when forecast weather conditions are likely to result in high pollution levels. The EPA liaises with the Rural Fire Service before issuing any notices and provides exemptions to allow strategically important hazard reduction burns to proceed during these no burn periods.
Page last updated: 26 February 2011