EPA signs Enforceable Undertaking with Wambo Coal

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has signed an Enforceable Undertaking with Singleton mine operators, Wambo Coal Pty Ltd following a water pollution incident.

The EPA’s Director of North Branch, Gary Davey said an Enforceable Undertaking is a legally binding regulatory response the EPA can use where there has been a breach of environmental legislation.

The water pollution incident occurred in late January to early February 2013, after sediment from the newly constructed North Wambo Creek Diversion discharged downstream into the natural basin of North Wambo Creek.

On February 7 the EPA received information that an amount of sediment had eroded from the banks of the diverted section of creek and moved downstream.

Staff from the EPA’s Hunter office investigated the incident, requesting a detailed report from Wambo Coal and conducting a number of site inspections.

“Our staff found that a lack of erosion controls along the banks of the diverted section of creek, combined with heavy rain contributed to the discharge of sediment,” Gary Davey said.

“When contractors began construction in 2012, the North Wambo Creek had been dry since 2009. The hot, dry conditions at the time meant there was a slower than normal growth of vegetation along the creek banks, with many of the seedlings the mine’s contractors planted failing to grow.

“North Wambo Creek is a natural alluvial creek system that experiences intermittent flooding. However, when water did start flowing through the system there was insufficient vegetation in place, particularly along the newly built diversion section, to prevent the movement of sediment,” Mr Davey said.

“After the incident, the EPA imposed conditions on Wambo’s environment protection licence to address the incident. The EPA understands that Wambo has spent over $400,000 on civil works, remediation, planning and consultants in order to comply with these conditions.

“The EPA has taken all these circumstances into consideration in deciding to proceed with the Enforceable Undertaking. Given the alluvial nature of North Wambo Creek the movement of sediment during times of flooding is not uncommon, and therefore the EPA considers the environmental harm from this particular sediment discharge as low.” Mr Davey said.

Wambo Coal will also be required to pay $30,000 to the Singleton Shire Council for the Council to undertake an agreed river rehabilitation program, and also to pay $7,000 in legal costs to the EPA.