New conditions protect the Wollangambe River and Blue Mountains World Heritage
The EPA has imposed strict new limits on the environment protection licence for the Clarence Colliery to improve water quality in the Wollangambe River, which runs into the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney
EPA Regional Director for South and West Gary Whytcross said the revised licence was a major step forward in improving the river’s health.
“The EPA is committed to improving the quality of Clarence Colliery’s water discharge so that it matches the sensitive ecology of the nearby Blue Mountains World Heritage Area,” Mr Whytcross said.
“In making these changes we have worked closely with local community groups, researchers and other agencies to help protect the Wollangambe River for future generations.”
“We will continue to engage with all of our partners as we monitor the recovery of the river.”
The Pollution Reduction Program, which has been developed over the past year, sets stringent new limits for Clarence Colliery on 13 metals, including zinc and nickel, using Australian and New Zealand national standards and water quality guidelines as a benchmark.
The new limits were recommended by the Office of Environment and Heritage following a comprehensive report to the EPA on the condition of the Wollangambe River.
University of Western Sydney Senior Lecturer in Natural Science Dr Ian Wright, who has been part of the discussions, spoke of the positive changes with ABC Radio Central West in March. “This action is a fantastic step. To me it’s a roadmap to recovery for the river.”
Environment group The Colong Foundation’s Keith Muir told ABC Radio Sydney in March that restoring the river will have immense benefits. “An entire river will be restored to health. To a pristine state.”
The EPA will also be issuing Clarence Colliery with another legally-binding pollution reduction program in the coming months that will focus on reducing the salinity levels discharged into the river, Mr Whytcross said. The EPA has advised the company that it must keep salinity below 100 EC (electrical conductivity).
Separately, in May 2016, the EPA commenced a prosecution in the Land and Environment Court against Clarence Colliery, alleging a Tier 1 offence relating to the discharge of coal fines from the Colliery, near Lithgow in 2015. The case is next due in court on 8 May 2017.
Tier 1 offences are the most serious under the Protection of Environment Operations Act 1997 and come with a maximum penalty of $5,000,000 for a corporation.
Image: Colo River – downstream from the Wollangambe River in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Copyright Simone Cottrell.