THERE has been a call for stronger air quality monitoring following numerous days of smoky conditions in Leeton shire and surrounding areas.
However, while farmers are within their rights to “burn off” there is confusion about who is responsible for policing pollution.
Leeton resident Jason Richardson said air pollution in the Riverina wan’t isolated and impacted on the health of residents.
“Our atmosphere should not be a dumping ground,” he said.
“The public health costs need to be acknowledged and accounted to polluters.
“The dozen (reported) people attending Griffith Base Hospital (recently) with breathing problems is the tip of the metaphorical iceberg when you consider the potential issues that develop over time.
“Perhaps the Rural Fire Service can introduce a system that results in the staggering of burns?
“Something needs to be done, especially given that asthma is more prevalent in rural NSW than many other areas of Australia.”
A NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) spokesman said regulation of farm “burn-offs” was the responsibility of local government.
The spokesman said farms did not fall under the Protection of the Environment Operations (POEO) Act and the responsibility for regulation belonged to councils.
However, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) does monitor air quality across the state, but in the south-west only Wagga and Albury are monitored, according to an OEH spokeswoman.
“These stations are positioned in major population centres to collect data on particle pollution that can provide a good indication of the air quality likely to be experienced by most people,” she said.
From April 1 to April 10, only four days in Wagga were rated within acceptable levels for ‘PM10’ particles, the type commonly associated with smoke.
Murrumbidgee Local Health District has advised Leeton shire residents with chronic respiratory conditions living in areas affected by smoke to stay indoors where possible if levels of pollution increased.