Camp Gully Creek pollution clean-up and investigation

We are overseeing the clean-up and investigating the alleged pollution of Camp Gully Creek from Metropolitan Collieries mine site in Helensburgh.

Metropolitan Collieries started the clean-up of the creek after we issued a Clean-up Notice on Friday, 16 September.

Our officers are regularly monitoring clean-up activities to ensure minimal impacts on the creek and surrounding areas. Independent ecologists prepared the clean-up approaches and carried out assessments to determine the most appropriate methods.

In early September we issued a Prevention Notice to Metropolitan Collieries requiring the following immediate preventative actions

  • improving stormwater management practices and monitoring
  • increasing stormwater storage capacity
  • more stringent water quality standards prior to any discharge from the site

Investigation

We are investigating the incident and will consider regulatory action if breaches of the environment protection legislation are found.

As part of the investigation, our officers have done multiple inspections, collected water and other samples to determine the ecological impact on the creek.

Results from water samples taken from Camp Gully Creek and the confluence with Hacking River indicate there is no risk to human health.

Licence review

We have commenced a review of Metropolitan Collieries’ environment protection licence. The review will focus on implementing measures to enhance monitoring and improve environmental practices at the site including around water management and discharges. 

The current licence (no. 767) can be viewed in the public register.

The community has the opportunity to contribute to the review. We invite submissions by email to compliance.services@epa.nsw.gov.au by 13 January 2023.

Community questions answered

How is the clean-up being carried out?

The clean-up involves two phases to ensure minimal impact on the creek and surrounding areas. The first phase focuses on the removal of coal material above the waterline. The second phase focuses on the removal of coal material beneath the waterline.

Independent ecologists have prepared the clean-up approaches

Why is there no containment in place to prevent coal material moving downstream?

As the particles of coal material are extremely small they become suspended in the water column and move with the flowing water.  Containment methods such as booms and sediment fencing are designed to retain material floating on the water or material with larger particle size.  Thus these methods would be ineffective in this incident due to the size of the particles.

Water gates cannot be used as this would stop all water flow and cause flooding.

Is there an update on the testing carried out by the EPA?

The samples taken by the EPA are being analysed for a range of substances to understand the environmental impact.

Results from water samples taken from Camp Gully Creek and the confluence with Hacking River, including heavy metals and nutrients, indicate there is no risk to human health.

Further laboratory analysis is underway.