Australia: Mercury pollution up by 130% at Eraring power plant

The surge in mercury and particulate pollution emanating from Australia’s largest coal-fired power station in the past year has sparked concern, leading an environmental group to vehemently oppose any extension of its operations by the New South Wales (NSW) government, citing potential absurdity and harm.

Eraring power station, operated by Origin Energy and slated for closure in August 2025, reported a staggering 130% increase in mercury pollution during the 2022-23 period compared to the previous year, as per data from the national pollution inventory. This significant rise in mercury emissions is particularly alarming due to the irreversible damage it can cause to the brain and kidneys, especially in children.

Furthermore, the station, situated near Lake Macquarie, also saw an 88% escalation in PM2.5 particle pollution, along with increases in PM10 particles and sulfur dioxide emissions by 16% and 15%, respectively. Similarly, two other major NSW power stations, Delta Electricity’s Vales Point and AGL Energy’s Bayswater, reported substantial spikes in toxic pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions.

Despite a slight decline in electricity output from NSW power stations, the emissions of key pollutants surged, indicating a disproportionate increase in pollution levels. This worrying trend has prompted calls from environmental advocates and community members, like Mike Campbell from the Central Coast Community Environment Network, to phase out coal-fired power in favor of renewable energy sources to safeguard public health and the environment.

The NSW government is currently deliberating whether to provide subsidies to Origin to extend Eraring’s operations to mitigate blackout risks during peak demand periods. However, environmental groups, such as Environment Justice Australia, strongly oppose such measures, labeling them as both absurd and harmful.

In response to growing concerns, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is conducting a thorough review of all power station licenses in the state. Tony Chappel, CEO of the EPA, highlighted the agency’s commitment to enforcing tightened air emission limits and monitoring requirements, emphasizing the need for adherence to best practices in pollution control.

While some power stations, including Eraring, claim to remain within their emission limits, environmental groups raise concerns about the long-term impacts of their operations on public health and the environment. Despite assertions from industry representatives about improvements in air quality and compliance with regulations, discrepancies remain regarding reported emissions and their potential consequences.

The Australian Energy Council acknowledges a decline in PM2.5 emissions but notes an unexpected increase in mercury emissions last year. This underscores the complex interplay of various factors influencing emissions levels, including market demand, operational changes, and coal quality.

As the debate over the future of coal-fired power continues, the imperative to transition towards cleaner energy sources becomes increasingly apparent. With coal still accounting for a significant portion of Australia’s electricity generation, concerted efforts are needed to accelerate the shift towards renewable energy to mitigate the adverse effects of pollution on public health and the environment.

Latest articles

US: 40% of people exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution

According to a recent report by the American Lung Association, nearly 40% of people in the US are exposed to unhealthy levels of air...

Profits dip, Tesla comes up with new models

Tesla's profits have significantly declined this year, prompting the company to accelerate the release of new models and cut thousands of jobs in an...

Greece: Athens covered with orange Sahara dust haze

An intense orange haze has enveloped Athens, creating a surreal landscape as vast clouds of Sahara Desert dust have drifted over the city. This...

Argentina: People protest against cuts to public universities

Tens of thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, on Tuesday, to protest and for voicing their opposition...

Related articles