EPA fines Dendrobium Coal $15K for alleged water pollution

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined mining company Dendrobium Coal Pty Ltd $15,000 after Brandy and Water Creek was allegedly polluted with coal material from the company’s Dendrobium Mine near Mount Kembla last year.

The incident happened on 10 August 2020 following heavy rainfall. A stormwater pipe beneath the Mine’s main dirty water dam collapsed leaving a hole in the base of the dam.

The collapse resulted in fine coal material flowing down Brandy and Water Creek and sections of American Creek into the upper reaches of Port Kembla Harbour.

The company took prompt action to stop the discharge and clean up the creek. Fine coal material deposited on the banks of Brandy and Water Creek was removed by hand to avoid damage to the riverbed.

EPA Acting Director Regulatory Operations Metro Jacinta Hanemann said the alleged pollution incident caused water to become turbid and discoloured.

“Sampling by the EPA at the time showed elevated levels of fine coal particles in the creek and the EPA received several reports from the public that creek water passing through residential areas in Figtree had turned a grey-black colour.”

“The EPA required the company to employ an independent expert to assess the environmental impact on the creek. This monitoring showed a small reduction in aquatic animals near the mine immediately after the spill. Subsequent testing has shown no long-term impacts from the incident,” Ms Hanemann said.

“Dendrobium Coal carried out the remediation work and environmental monitoring that was required by the EPA. It is also performing structural reviews of all similar infrastructure at the mine to avoid incidents like this in the future.”

Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, legally binding pollution reduction programs, enforceable undertakings and prosecutions.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm. If you suspect someone is doing the wrong thing, phone the NSW EPA on 131 555.