Air Watch - monitoring air quality in the Blue Mountains

Bush Fire Smoke Kills

In 2019/2020 twelve air pollution monitors in Lithgow & the Blue Mountains gave vital real time readings on the web to everybody in the community. Over 500 signatures were collected on a petition submitted to Parliament on our behalf by Member for the Blue Mountains Trish Doyle, calling for the program to be extended beyond the initial 12 months. The NSW Government still took them away, despite bushfire inquiry recommendations! We need them back!Knowing Our Ambient Local Air Quality

Bring back our Air Pollution Monitors - removed by the NSW Government from Lithgow and the Blue Mountains

Join the Air Watch campaign on Facebook!

Bush fire smoke is a known killer. More than 400 hundred people died and over 4000 people were admitted to hospital suffering the effects of bush fire smoke during Black Summer.

Knowing the quality of the air we breathe saves lives.

We believe every citizen has the right to real time local air pollution information. In Lithgow and the Blue Mountains, we had eleven monitors known as KOALAs (Know our Ambient Local Air Quality) and a monitoring POD.

You can find out more by istening to a discussion with experts in environmental science and workplace health and safety, and local activists in "Air Watch - Monitoring Air Pollution in the Blue Mountains".


Join the Air Watch Campaign


Blue Mountains & Lithgow AirWatch Facebook group

Sign the Petition!

Email the Minister for Climate Change, Minister for Energy, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Heritage, Penny Sharpe via this link.

Despite proving their worth as an essential health tool with 50,0000 hits on the EPA’s Air Watch web site, the NSW government removed all the monitors in June 2020, ignoring calls to extend the Air Watch Project beyond 12 months. Since then the need for accessible local air pollution monitoring has been recommended by two major bushfire inquiries.

Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle said, “Given the devastating Black Summer we have just experienced, and the [Environment] Minister’s [Matt Kean] own acknowledgment of climate change being a contributing factor, one would think the government might care about future planning by measuring air quality over a number of seasons”.

Dr Yuming Guo head of Monash University’s Climate and Research Unit said toxic air could easily become the silent killer of Australia’s climate catastrophe. In the short term, this kind of pollution could increase the risk of death, hospital admissions, emergency department visits and ambulance calls. In the long term it might be associated with shortened life expectancy and the development of respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, dementia, as well as mental health problems and adverse birth outcomes.

So far our campaign for air monitoring in Lithgow and the Blue Mountains has been supported by:
•    Blue Mountains City Council,
•    Blue Mountains Conservation Society,
•    Lithgow Environment Group,
•    Doctors for the Environment,
•    NSW Teachers Federation (Blue Mountains Branch),
•    Health Services Union,
•    NSW Nurses and Midwives Association and the 
•    Western Suburbs Regional Organisation of Councils.

You can download, print and sign this petition to the NSW government asking to urgently reintroduce and expand air quality monitoring across the Blue Mountains and Lithgow. 

Is there an online petition?

No. When we started the NSW Government only accepted paper petitions. They've changed this policy but not in time for our campaign.

Are there any other rules about this petition?

  1. The NSW Government doesn't accept photocopied petitions, so when you have signature/s on the petition/s you need to send the original documents back to us, to D Smith, Secretary, Blue Mountains Unions & Community, 52-52A Great Western Hwy, Mount Victoria 2786.
  2. Signatories need to put their residential address on the petition. The signature won't count if the address section is left blank and an email address is insufficient. The address section shows that the signatory is a resident of NSW.

Does each page of the petition have to be full before I send it back?

It's OK if you can't fill the pages. Even with only one signature the petition is still valid. Additionally, if you're worried about several people handling the page during the pandemic, one person per page is a way around this. If you do collect multiple signatures, consider sanitising the pen between users too.

Where can I find out more about NSW government petitions?

At this link on the NSW government website:

Is there anything else I can do?

You can also take action by contacting Minister Matt Kean's office directly and asking him to restore and extend the program to the lower Blue Mountains. You can also talk to your friends and neighbours about the campaign and distribute our flyers. You can ask others to add their signatures to yours on the petition.

Where can I find out more about the background of the campaign?

You can find and download copies of the letter we wrote to Minister Kean, the EPA response and our flyers and posters from the attachments below. If you'd like us to drop some printed flyers and posters off at your place so you can distribute them, send an email to

You can stay up to date with the campaign by joining the Blue Mountains & Lithgow Air Watch Facebook group.

Reports and Resources

Autumn 2020 Report
Summer 2019-2020 Report
Spring 2019 Report 
Winter 2019 Report
May 2019 Snapshot Report

EPA Background Report
EPA Factsheet

EPA webpage "Blue Mountains and Lithgow Air Watch"

Information from the Zoom event "Air Watch - Monitoring Pollution in the Blue Mountains"
Source Title Link
NSW EPA Mount Piper Environment Protection Licence
Medical Journal of Australia Bushfire smoke: urgent need for a national health protection strategy
Dr Arnagretta Hunter, Cardiologist, Global Climate & Health Alliance Limits of Liveability - Bushfire Report
Purple Air Backyard Monitors
Purple Air Wallerawang Air Quality Monitor
World Air Quality Index project Explore the air quality
anywhere in the world
World Air Quality Index project Air Pollution in Sydney: Real-time Air Quality Index Visual Map
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation Understanding Fine Particle Pollution
Queensland University of Technology Establishing advanced networks for air quality sensing and analysis
Dept of Planning, Industry and Environment Live Data Feed Air Quality Map - Upper Hunter
Dept of Planning, Industry and Environment Air Quality Map - Upper Hunter








10th March The Guardian Air pollution ‘speeds up osteoporosis’ in postmenopausal women

October 4 Lithgow Council Opposes Waste to Energy
September 17 Blue Mountains Gazette Objections to regional incinerators
September 15 Lithgow Mercury 'Exporting a problem': 'Toxic' incinerator potentially coming to Lithgow
September 10 Renew Economy Controversial incineration projects shifted out of Sydney in waste-to-energy plan

July 31 Western Advocate Eco News | Let's look at what's wrong with Mount Piper waste proposal
April 26 Lithgow Mercury Lithgow's air quality decreased during Spring due to bushfires
March 17th Lithgow Mercury Community Group appealing to Minister Matt Kean to extend Air Watch program
February 11th Lithgow Mercury Lithgow residents call for 24/7 air quality monitoring in the region
January 10th Blue Mountains Gazette Air quality in real time in the Mountains 

November 29th The Daily Telegraph Blue Mountains air quality monitoring underway
November 23rd Lithgow Mercury Hazardous air quality for parts of NSW
May 23rd Lithgow Mercury Temporary air quality monitoring station installed in Katoomba
May 16th Blue Mountains Gazette Air quality monitoring project in Blue Mountains kicks off Information on local air quality
May 14th EPA Media Release Air quality monitoring project in Blue Mountains kicks off
April 10th Radio Blue Mountains 89.1FM "Rights, Rorts and Rants" Interview with Peter Lammiman

December 3rd Lithgow Mercury Major focus on health impacts of Mt Piper power station
December 5th ABC Coal-fired power station health study prompts calls for pollution monitoring and modern emissions controls
October 23rd Blue Mountains Gazette Coal train dust to be monitored

Other links
Lithgow Environment Group Health Watch
Unprecedented smoke-related health burden associated with the 2019–20 bushfires in eastern Australia
NSW Health information on air and ways to minimise the impacts

The web address of this page is

From the Blue Mountains Gazette by B C Lewis

"The first week of air quality testing in the Blue Mountains has begun, following an intensive community campaign to make it happen."

Commissioned by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), the 12 month project - called Blue Mountains and Lithgow Air Watch - started on Tuesday May 14 and will measure Katoomba's air quality every hour. There are smaller sensors measuring air pollutants close to the highway at Springwood and Wentworth Falls, as well as at Lithgow. 

NSW EPA regional director metropolitan, Giselle Howard, said it will provide a valuable picture of air quality. 

The nearest NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) monitoring stations are at Bathurst and St Marys. Wentworth Falls' air quality was briefly monitored (and cleared) for pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, in 1988-89.

The move follows more than a year of campaigning by the Blue Mountains Unions and Community group, who have been particularly concerned by the effects of uncovered coal being transported on the train line.

Spokesman Peter Lammiman said the initiative "lays the foundation for ... near real time information about local air quality".

"We look forward to working alongside community participants, the EPA and air quality experts. Fresh air is one of the reasons so many people visit the world heritage-listed Blue Mountains ... through this project we should begin to find out just how clean our air is."

Ms Howard said the temporary Katoomba air quality monitoring station, will be operated by OEH for 12 months and measure carbon monoxide, fine particles (PM 10 and PM 2.5), sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, carbon ozone, visibility and meteorology.

"In addition, 12 portable solar powered Koala (knowing our ambient local air quality) sensors, operated by the Queensland University of Technology, are located in Katoomba, Springwood, Wentworth Falls (Bodington Hill) and Lithgow to provide indicative information on ambient air quality that will complement data from the Katoomba station."

The project is run with the help of Mountains community groups, OEH, Blue Mountains and Lithgow councils, Doctors for the Environment, Western Sydney University and the local health district. Schools, business and community volunteers are hosting the sensors. The Katoomba station is on property owned by Air Services Australia. In the first few days the readings were either good or very good. "

Link to EPA Media Release.