Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Independent research confirms threat to the World Heritage listed wild Wollangambe River

Lithgow Environment Group

Colong Foundation for Wilderness

Blue Mountains Conservation Society

Nature Conservation Society of NSW

 

A new report1 released on Monday by the Office of Environment Heritage (OEH) confirmed that high volume discharges from Clarence Colliery near Lithgow are toxic to aquatic life and have impacted the Wollangambe River deep into the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

After many years of pollution, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) intends to vary the mine’s Environment Protection Licence to place limits on nickel, salinity, and temperature of the discharge to this otherwise pristine river.

The EPA will also impose a legally-binding Pollution Reduction Program to ensure the company’s discharge adequately meets the required standard.

University of Western Sydney lecturer Dr Ian Wright says that OEH’s investigation confirms the main findings of peer-reviewed University of Western Sydney research2 on the mine’s pollution and its impact on aquatic life.

Dr Ian Wright said: “I am pleased that the EPA is considering protection of environmental health for this important aquatic environment when licensing pollution discharges from the Clarence Colliery.  The ANZECC/ ARMCANZ (2000) for pristine streams in World Heritage Areas require that biological diversity should be maintained.  The OEH study confirms toxic effects on sensitive aquatic invertebrates arising from the Clarence Colliery discharges. A major pollution reduction program is now required.”

Colong Foundation for Wilderness director Keith Muir said: “There is no doubt that the discharge of up to 25ML/day of toxic saline water into the Wollangambe River has caused serious impact.  At times the river is so polluted that rocks in the river bed are coated with slippery goo, called a ‘biofilm’, which creates a canyoning hazard.”

Lithgow Environment Group Vice President Chris Jonkers said: “The mine effluent is little diluted downstream because the discharge makes up the majority of the river flow.  Nickel, sulphur and sulfate are fifty to one hundred times background levels.  The current licence-limit for zinc is nearly 200 times the ANZECC/ARMCANZ (2000) water quality guideline. The new licence must set the limits at natural background levels so that the World Heritage Area and its biodiversity are maintained.”

Blue Mountains Conservation Society Senior Vice President Tara Cameron said “The World Heritage wilderness must be protected from toxic mine pollution and we will pursue the issue to ensure further scrutiny of the EPA’s plans to reduce pollution at this mine.”

Nature Conservation Council Campaigns Director Daisy Barham said: “The EPA must not set licence-limits at a level which legalises the currently outrageous pollution.  Adequate treatment must reduce all contaminants to natural levels to restore and protect the ecology of this once-pristine stream within the World Heritage Area.”

BACKGROUND

  • In 2014 the EPA commenced a five yearly review of Clarence Colliery’s Environment Protection Licence (EPL 726) which controls  the discharges of mine effluent into Wollangambe River Were it not for the colliery effluent, the Wollangambe, a  designated a wild river would be pristine.
  • 130 submissions were received objecting to the water pollution from the mine during the public exhibition period for the licence review between October and November last year.
  • The EPA then commissioned a report from OEH on the state of the Wollangambe River, including upstream and downstream of where the colliery discharges quantities of mine water.
  • On Monday June 1, 2015 the OEH released its Clarence Colliery Discharge Investigation report.

MEDIA CONTACTS

Dr Ian Wright                                                                                                                          0414 308 701

Nature Conservation Council                             Media Officer James Tremain                            0419 272 254

Colong Foundation for Wilderness                   Director Keith Muir                                              0412 791 404

Blue Mountains Conservation Society             Senior Vice President Tara Cameron                    0419 824 974

Lithgow Environment Group                              Vice President Chris Jonkers                             6355 1179

MORE INFORMATION

1 Krogh M., Edge K. and Miller J., 2015, Clarence Colliery Discharge Investigation, Office of Environment and Heritage, Sydney, www.epa.nsw.gov.au/licensing/clarence-colliery.htm

2 Belmer N., Tippler C., Davies, P.J. and Wright, I.A. (2014), ‘Impact of a coal mine waste discharge on water quality and aquatic ecosystems in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area’, in G. Vietz, I.D. Rutherfurd and R. Hughes (eds), Proceedings of the 7th Australian Stream Management Conference, Townsville, Queensland, pp. 285–291.