Wollongong Coal has been fined $30,000 by the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) after its Russel Vale coal mine discharged dirty water into Bellambi Gully in December last year.
Peter Bloem, EPA manager for the Illawarra region said the pollution happened when a faulty water sprinkler used for dust suppression and an unsealed inspection portal in a coal stockpile area enabled coal fines to discharge from the operation into Bellambi Gully.
Bloem added that the penalty was in addition to the clean up direction the EPA issued to the company immediately after the incident.
“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,” he said.
Several other regulatory actions have been conducted by the EPA in response to other water-related incidents to further improve water management at the mine.
The EPA has added extra water quality and volume monitoring requirements to Wollongong Coal’s environmental protection license (EPA) to provide more information about the quality of water discharged from the mine into the Gully, especially after rainfall.
An independent audit of the adequacy of the mine’s water management system will also be conducted after discussions between the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), the EPA, and Wollongong Coal. It will be part of an overall Independent Environmental Audit of the mine to be submitted to the DPE by August 29, 2016.
“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,” Bloem added.
Apart from penalty notices, the EPA can also use license conditions, mandatory audits, formal warnings, legally binding pollution reduction programs, and prosecutions to achieve environmental compliance.