LETTER | Mill Ash is stifling our way of life in Mossman


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Mill ash cleaned from a bedroom. Image: Supplied.

Dear Editor,

This is not OK.

When I go into my son’s room once a week to vacuum and dust, this (pictured) is the typical amount of mill ash that I wipe from the top of his shelf.

This is the filth that he is breathing in for 10 hours every night, for six months of the year, every crushing season.

This is the same pollution that blankets our schools, our homes, our Saturday markets, and our community.

And yet we’re supposed to say nothing and tolerate it.

Because the mill was here before us. Because cane farming is the lifeblood of the families who founded this community. Because without the mill the town would die.

Out of respect for the community I have lived and worked in for 15 years, and the professional code of conduct I must adhere to in my role as an educator in this town, I’ve held my tongue on this pollution issue for many years.

But not any longer, because THIS IS NOT OK.

I’ve tried going through the proper channels: the Department of Environment and Science, the Council, even straight to the Canegrowers Association seeking answers; but the Mossman Mill continues to do whatever it likes and to hell with making any air quality improvements because there’s never any room for it in the profit margin.

So on it goes … another crushing season, another NPI (National Pollutant Inventory) ranking as a “highly polluted” town, another promise that they’ll get around to fixing it when the latest deal comes through.

It’s time to call this out.

My story is only one of hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have had enough.

People who have endured this air pollution for many more years than I have. People who are sick with chronic respiratory conditions and related illnesses. People who have come to live in this amazing part of the world only to have their dreams of clean air and water deplorably crushed.

In the United States and parts of Europe, this level of pollution would result in a government-issued notice to cease operations immediately, end of story. How has this contamination gone on for so long here, in a place that heralds itself as a World Heritage wonderland?

We don’t want to hear any more pie-in-the-sky stories about millions of dollars from the government that are going to build a bio-refinery, which is an unviable economic atrocity in itself. We want to know what the Mossman Mill is going to do about its pollution problem RIGHT NOW.

Even staunch supporters of the Mill would surely recognise a sense of urgency if it were them who had to take their children or grandchildren to the hospital to be put on the ventilator.

Or if they, after finishing a long day at work, came home to a house filled with smoke and fumes so thick that you’d think your own property was on fire.

Surely it is time for the Mill to stop turning a blind eye to the obvious and irrefutable evidence and DO THE RIGHT THING by taking responsibility for a problem that everyone knows is there.

With Council elections coming up, I should hope that somebody would step forward with a vision and a plan to address this issue. There is a silent majority of voters out there who will tell you it’s been a long time coming.

In the meantime, the community of Mossman deserves to have a voice with regards to the effects of air pollution on our schools, businesses, tourism industry, homes, and personal health.
Dare to say ... THIS IS NOT OK.

Anonymous, Douglas Shire

Editor’s Notes:

  • Mossman has been classified as "highly polluted" . One polluting facility was identified for the postcode 4873, The Mossman Sugar Mill. It emitted a total of 769.705.3824 kg into the air.
  • ABC maps Australian pollution by postcode. The search relies on data from the National Pollution Inventory (NPI), which is run by the Department of Environment and Energy. The NPI data shows what is being released from an emission source. (Source)
  • Douglas Wonders, which comprises a group of like-minded people who care about the health of their community and the environment, has classified Mossman as highly polluted. (Source)
  • A spokesperson for Far Northern Milling, who recently acquired the mill from Mackay Sugar, said it met all the environmental requirements of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), but would not provide comment on an anonymous source.    

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