Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

EPA issues Wollongong Coal with fines totalling $31,000

Media release: 6 September 2017

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has issued two fines of $15,000 each to Wollongong Coal Limited after turbid (sediment-laden) water was discharged from the Russell Vale coal mine to Bellambi Gully in November 2016 in contravention of its environment protection licence.

Following local rain, turbid water flowed through cracks and holes in the Bellambi Gully diversion pipe which runs under the premises and coal stockpile areas and ponded onsite. This turbid water was washed down Bellambi Gully when the company released water from a treatment plant. 

The EPA issued one fine of $15,000 for causing water pollution and a second $15,000 fine for poor maintenance and operation of the Bellambi Gully diversion pipe.

Wollongong Coal Limited (WCL) was also fined $1,000 by the EPA for failing to publish water quality (turbidity) monitoring data in discharges from the premises to Bellambi Gully from October 2016 to November 2016. This became apparent to the EPA during its investigation of the incident. 

EPA Manager Regional Operations Peter Bloem said the EPA became aware of the incident after a report of a plume of turbid water in Bellambi Gully from a local resident.

“Whilst the environmental impacts from this incident were not considered the most harmful, sediment can smother aquatic plant life and impacts the ability of fish and organisms to breathe. The incident highlights the importance of having proper controls and management procedures in place to manage stormwater at all times,” Mr Bloem said. 

“At the time of the incident the EPA inspected the creek and issued Wollongong Coal with a Clean-up Notice requiring the implementation of prevention and mitigation measures. 

The EPA has also required WCL implement a program of works under a Pollution Reduction Program attached to the licence to reduce turbid discharges from the site. These works are progressing and include the pre-treatment of on-site stormwater and inspection and maintenance of the Bellambi Gully diversion pipeline.

“The requirement to publish water discharge monitoring data provides the public with access to information about the environmental performance of the mine and is important for continued transparency of operations.

“In this case the company’s environmental performance has not met the expectations of the EPA nor the community.”

The penalty follows a fine of $30,000 issued to Wollongong Coal in July 2016 after the mine discharged coal fines into Bellambi Gully in December 2015.

“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.”

Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance. The EPA takes a range of factors into account before delivering a proportionate regulatory response, including the degree of environmental harm, potential health impacts, compliance history, public interest and best environmental outcomes.

Contact: EPA Public Affairs

Page last updated: 06 September 2017