NSW isn’t doing enough to stop excessive environmental harm from chemical flows: it’s more prevalent than a lot of men and women realise for liquid wastes to be discharged into waterways.
For every place this is achieved via a license known as an Environmental Protection Licence (EPL). These licences are generally called contamination licences.
A recent study paper in the Environmental and Planning Law Journal analyzed the present regulation of water contamination in NSW. It identified several failures that are causing water contamination and ecological degradation.
The EPA has been reconstituted with alterations to its laws and can currently inflict severe new penalties for inducing contamination and for any failure to report contamination.
This is a direct outcome of a NSW Government query. Even though this is a significant improvement, so a lot of these contamination licences define pollutants limits which are insignificant to the true environmental dangers and harm.
Pollution Licences Are Not Working
The public was just informed of the possibly carcinogenic fallout three times following the episode. Both sector (Orica) along with the ruler (the EPA) were criticised.
The top Coxs River exemplifies the Problems with EPLs. This river, at the western Blue Mountains of NSW, has over 22 licensed premises discharging waste.
It’s also among the largest rivers flowing into Lake Burragorang, the giant national water reservoir supporting Warragamba Dam, the biggest drinking water storage system for Sydney.
Delta Electricity function two coal-fired power channels in the region. The elderly power channel (Wallerawang) comes with an EPL permit to discharge waste water that doesn’t match the pollutants discharged. Unexpectedly the EPL failed to control salinity, since the release had a degree of salinity measured at around 2,380 µS/cm.
It is about 50 times greater than background levels of salinity (in upstream fresh reaches of freshwater flows). The present EPL for this particular facility doesn’t have any release limits for salinity.
This release also includes exceptionally elevated heavy metals, such as aluminum. There were not any release limits for aluminum or other heavy metals from the waste release.
In 2009, the Blue Mountains Conservation Society chose Delta to court within this release, using information I gathered.
The Wallerawang Power Station is presently in the process of a rigorous update to the treatment of wastewater, after an out of court settlement. Delta Electricity also have asked the EPA to permit its waste releases to contain many water pollutants such as salinity and heavy metals.
Coal Causes Cumulative Impacts
Another gripe of water contamination licensing NSW is that the absence of consideration of cumulative impacts. The top Coxs River comprises over 20 other licenced release points as well as this Wallerawang Power Station.
There are just two sewage treatment plants (Lithgow and Wallerawang) plus an extremely large and rising amount of coal mines which dewater waste water which collects within the mining operation and can be pumped out to neighboring castles.
Water contamination from coal mining is much more persistent and more damaging than a lot of men and women realise.
This has become the topic of many research papers as polluted drainage still emerges now and each day by a mine shaft that communicates close to the edge of the cliff traces from the spectacular and extremely appreciated Grose River valley.
This place is among the very valued surroundings on earth. It’s a National Park, a declared Wilderness region, a declared Wild River, and it’s also a part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Region.
These protections haven’t averted or even remediated some of those water pollution effects in the heritage of the coal mining procedure.
One analysis of aquatic ecosystems of the Grose River with freshwater invertebrates, revealed that over 10km of this river had been degraded by poisonous water arising out of the coal mine.
Water chemistry indicated that toxic levels of zinc were accountable for its pollution and environmental degradation.
It seems this contamination release now happens in a regulatory vacuum. As it had been in operation, the EPL enabled the mine to discharge highly elevated levels of zinc, a large number of time greater than ecosystem security guidelines urge.
Time to Create A Change
Reforms of water contamination licensing are required in NSW. Licences will need to incorporate all pollutants being discharged from waste discharge factors.
Licences will need to add concentration limitations and monitoring requirements for many environmentally toxic pollutants in each discharge.
The NSW Government required this kind of advice from Sydney Water as it had been corporatised. The standard of therapy was enhanced and the standard of water to swimming has improved. This instance of superior pollution management has proven to be a extremely isolated one.
The cumulative effect of licensed releases has to be thought about. The EPA should openly clarify the rationale for the EPL release limit choices, especially for its release pollutant concentrations for key pollutants.
In the wake of the August 2011 Orica instance, EPL license holders are now required to create all of environmental monitoring information publicly accessible.
This was a significant step, and it has enhanced the transparency of water contamination in NSW. I am hoping that it helps the community know what possibly harmful chemicals might be release in their regional environment.
But, individuals could be disappointed in so many circumstances the EPLs for water contamination don’t establish limits for the many harmful compounds in the waste disharge.