Resistance on Eraring coal ash dam plan

COAL ASH: The Eraring power station ash dam is set to be expanded by 5 million cubic metres. Picture: Google Maps
COAL ASH: The Eraring power station ash dam is set to be expanded by 5 million cubic metres. Picture: Google Maps

Environmental Justice Australia has renewed its push against the expansion of the Eraring coal ash dam.

The NSW Department of Planning and the NSW Environmental Protection Authority have recommended the project for approval, however, Environmental Justice Australia argues the project should not be approved until issues of management, regulation and increasing health and environmental concerns have been addressed.

"The coal ash dump at Eraring is not lined, is linked to ground and surface water contamination and is causing air pollution - all of which put the health of the local community and environment at serious risk. These issues must be addressed by the active Parliamentary Inquiry into coal ash before an expansion is considered," Environmental Justice Australia lawyer Bronya Lipski said.

It was reported last month that the EPA ignored its consultants' advice about potential "major hazards" with the expansion.

Final approval for the project sits with the Independent Planning Commission.

"The recommendation by the NSW government and the EPA to approve the Eraring coal ash dump expansion shows a complete lack of consideration for recent management failures, pollution events and the huge risk posed to the surrounding community and environment," Ms Lipski said.

A Parliamentary Inquiry is presently investigating the costs of remediating ash dumps in NSW and is yet to report on its findings.

"The Independent Planning Commission's review of the proposal to expand Eraring's coal ash dump is a test of the independent governance of our environment laws. Given the huge risk to the surrounding community and environment, it's clear that the NSW government and the EPA cannot resist the influence of the coal lobby. Let's hope the IPC proves they are immune to industry influence as they are designed to be," Ms Lipski concluded.

The Environment Protection Authority continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding a major dust pollution incident at the ash dam on November 12.

Lakeside residents recorded thousands of tonnes of coal ash blowing across the lake during the extreme weather event.

An EPA spokesman said the authority expected Origin Energy to implement all feasible control measures to minimise dust.

Monitoring weather forecasts and planning for additional dust controls during adverse weather conditions, temporary capping and vegetation of a 44 hectare portion of the dam, CCTV monitoring and the application of dust suppressants were among the measures being implemented.