Wollongong Coal fined $30,000 for water discharge
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Wollongong Coal $30,000 after the company’s Russel Vale coal mine discharged dirty water into Bellambi Gully last December.
This fine is one of several regulatory actions the EPA has taken in response to recent water-related incidents at the Russell Vale mine to help improve water management at the mine and protect Bellambi Gully from dirty water discharges.
The EPA Manager for the Illawarra region Peter Bloem said the pollution of the creek in December had occurred when a faulty water sprinkler used for dust suppression and an unsealed inspection portal in a coal stockpile area allowed coal fines to be discharged from the premises into Bellambi Gully.
The two fines – for pollution of waters and for inadequate maintenance of plant and equipment – total $30,000.
“This penalty notice is in addition to a clean-up direction that was issued by the EPA to Wollongong Coal immediately following the discharge incident,” Mr Bloem said.
“Water management at this mine is critical given its sensitive location on the foothills of the Illawarra escarpment and its discharge through residential areas of Bellambi Gully to Bellambi Beach.”
The EPA has continued to respond to reports of turbid water discharges from the mine to Bellambi Gully. In June 2016, these reports related to a Sydney Water main bursting in dry weather and the release of black storm water from the premises following heavy rainfall.
The EPA has attached additional water quality and volume monitoring requirements to Wollongong Coal’s Environment protection licence so as to provide a greater level of information about water quality discharged from the coal mine to Bellambi Gully, particularly following rainfall.
The collected information will help to show the current performance of the water management system and guide any future improvement works.
The company has a duty to publish this monitoring data on its website to provide public access to information about the environmental performance of the mine.
Following discussions between EPA, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) and Wollongong Coal, an independent audit of the adequacy of the water management system at the Russell Vale mine will also be conducted. This audit will be included in an overall Independent Environmental Audit of the mine, and the combined audit report will be submitted to DPE by 29 August 2016.
“The findings of this audit and monitoring program will be used to help inform any future compliance actions,” Mr Bloem said.
“The onus is on Wollongong Coal to demonstrate to the EPA and the local community that they have taken and continue to undertake all practical measures to prevent water pollution.”