Not-for-profit legal centre, Environmental Justice Australia (EJA), will continue to closely monitor Vales Point Power Station until the plant’s operator, Delta Electricity, stops dumping coal from trucks onto outdoor stockpiles.
EJA lodged a complaint with the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in February following a snap inspection of the power plant, where EJA personnel and local residents witnessed thousands of tonnes of coal being dumped outdoors in hot, windy conditions.
The EPA confirmed in writing to EJA that the 39-year-old Vales Point was the only power station in NSW where coal was being delivered by trucks, rather than covered conveyors.
“This dangerous pollution could be controlled by the EPA at the stroke of a pen, but it seems unwilling to exercise its regulatory powers,” said EJA researcher, Dr James Whelan.
“Delta claimed no dust left its stockpile site on the very day we photographed a mountain of coal being dumped and bulldozed, raising clouds of dust.
“Members of our team inhaled the coal dust and it went in their eyes.
“Under its environmental licence, Delta is required to monitor air quality, but this monitoring data is not publicly available, and the closest EPA monitoring station with publicly available results is 25 kilometres away in Wyong.
“We will watch Vales Point like a hawk until this outrageous air pollution stops,” Dr Whelan said.
EPA Regional Director, Mr Adam Gilligan, has advised EJA that coal will be transported by conveyors from the end of April.
A letter from Mr Gilligan to EJA dated March 15, said: “The licensee has agreed to keep records of when the water tanker is used at the coal handling facility [to control coal dust].
“These records can then be called upon by the EPA to establish the frequency of application times and volume rates.”
According to the EPA, dust management conditions on the power station’s Environment Protection Licence (EPL) 761, require that “trucks entering and leaving the premises that are carrying loads of dust-generating materials must have their loads covered at all times, except during loading operations”.
Mr Gilligan’s letter said: “The EPA understands that you have also observed uncovered trucks transporting coal and ash on public roads.
“While the EPA’s routine inspections have not indicated any non-compliance with the above condition, if you do have evidence (such as photographs) that indicates that the above licence condition was or is not being complied with, please report this information.”
EJA is seeking a meeting with NSW Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton.
“You could drive an uncovered coal truck through the Vales Point Environmental Protection Licence,” said local resident Mike Campbell, who was with the EJA team when they documented the pollution last month.
EJA will hold a community workshop at the Wyee Community Hall on Wednesday, April 19, to hear community concerns.
Mar 21, 2017
James Whelan, Environmental Justice Australia
Mar 15, 2017
Adam Gilligan, NSW Environmental Protection Authority