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New dust monitoring tool to reduce contaminant burden on communities

A new tool for monitoring and analysing dust plumes – particularly those containing potentially harmful contaminants – will improve our understanding of, and help reduce, the impacts on affected communities.

Research confirming the effectiveness of the Coherent Doppler Lidar system has been published by the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE).

The study, performed in collaboration with Curtin University, trialled the Lidar (short for Light Detection and Ranging; also known as ‘laser radar’) in Port Hedland, which has a history of high dust levels related to the loading of bulk commodities for export and mining activities.

Project leader John Sutton, now with Aeolius Wind Systems, says that the Lidar system allows real-time monitoring of dust emissions and wind fields.

“This information can be used to identify dust emission sources, track dust plumes, provide insight into the way wind transports dust, and determine community exposure,” Mr Sutton said.

“In short, the system allows better management of contaminant plumes, which in turn helps to reduce impacts on communities.”

The technology can be used at ports and mine sites for routine monitoring, health risk and occupational safety studies, validation of modelling, and evaluation of dust mitigation strategies.

Mr Sutton says that the new system has numerous advantages over both modelling and traditional point monitoring.

“By allowing real-time measurement of contaminant plumes, Lidar gives us an idea of what’s happening in the real world,” he said.

“It provides information about the source and shape of contaminant plumes, and the concentrations of contaminant particles – and therefore information on who is being or will be affected.”

Mr Sutton says that the real-time information helps environmental managers make better decisions, including identifying the location of a plume source and how best to dampen it, as well as the effectiveness of the dampening. This gives industry an objective idea of how well its abatement strategies are working.

“This sort of capability simply isn’t possible with traditional point monitoring, which may gather data from three or four monitoring points,” Mr Sutton said.

“The Lidar system effectively measures thousands of points and, what’s more, it works over a large area of up to 300 km2.”

According to CRC CARE Managing Director Professor Ravi Naidu, the Lidar system offers an excellent example of why the Commonwealth Government established the CRC Program – to develop better tools for industry.

“This is a new, improved technology that provides unique capability for identifying industrial dust plumes,” Professor Naidu said.

“In turn, this shines a light on pathways for reducing impacts on local communities.”

The research is detailed in CRC CARE Technical Report 33, Advanced Lidar Port Hedland dust study: Broadscale, real-time dust tracking and measurement, which is available for free download via www.crccare.com/publications/technical-reports.

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