Broken Hill Environmental Lead Study

Investigation into airborne and deposited lead levels and sources contributing to environmental lead in Broken Hill.

The Broken Hill Environmental Lead Study (BHELS) was commissioned by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in 2016 to inform remediation efforts underway as part of the Broken Hill Environmental Lead Program (BHELP) to address lead contamination and exposures.

OEH was engaged to develop and deliver this four-year study, in collaboration with the EPA and with Macquarie University. The BHELP Steering Committee has endorsed the study as a high priority project.

Study findings will help direct future efforts to reduce community lead exposure in Broken Hill.

What are the aims of the study?

The study aims to monitor airborne and deposited lead and assess contributions of current emissions from Line of Lode mining leases and emissions from areas affected by historic emissions (‘legacy lead’).

Specific study objectives are to:

  • Determine likely source areas contributing to airborne lead levels in Broken Hill based on a year of wind-directional measurements of ambient air lead at selected locations, and analysis to identify the location of sources contributing to airborne lead.
  • Monitoring of airborne and deposited lead levels for a further two years to evaluate the effectiveness of remediation works in reducing lead levels.

What sampling and analysis is being undertaken?

Wind-directional high volume air samplers are being deployed at five sites representative of community exposures; three sites in North Broken Hill and two sites in South Broken Hill. Samples are being sent to a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited laboratory for gravimetric analysis to determine TSP mass and the associated lead content.

Dust deposition gauges have been installed at the sampling sites to provide information on total dust deposition and deposited lead levels.

Ambient particulate matter concentrations are being continuously measured at two sites using DustTrak Aerosol Monitors (DustTraks) to provide more time resolved information on variations in particle concentrations in the Broken Hill. Meteorological data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s Automatic Weather Station at Broken Hill Airport is being used in the study.

A pilot study is being undertaken by Macquarie University to investigate the usefulness of microscopy techniques to characterise the morphology and chemistry of airborne particles collected at Broken Hill for source attribution purposes.

When will the study findings be available?

The Broken Hill Environmental Lead Study is a four year study. Findings will be published by LeadSmart Broken Hill.