More than 200 million tonnes of coal ash waste is currently dumped in unlined sites across the state, with more than half of the material stored in the Hunter and Central Coast, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.
The inquiry into the costs for remediation of sites containing coal ash repositories was told this week that the amount of the waste product is growing by 3.8 million tonnes a year.
Several environment and community organisations raised concerns about the impact of the material on surrounding residents and the environment, in particular the potential for heavy metals and other pollutants to contaminate waterways, soil and air.
Coal-ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power generation, makes up about 20 per cent of Australia's national waste-stream and takes up large tracts of land around Lake Macquarie and the Upper Hunter.
The region's power stations have been repeatedly fined for the poor management of coal ash.
In another instance, AGL-Macquarie's Bayswater power station was fined for ash-related pollution including a spill into Bayswater Creek in 2016.
The company has cited the need to improve infrastructure for the management of coal ash among the reasons for a $30million upgrade of Bayswater power station, which is currently on exhibition.
The EPA fined Origin Energy's Eraring power station in 2017 after ash was repeatedly blown into surrounding suburbs in September of 2016.
The complicated issue of coal-ash in the Hunter is the subject of the first episode of a new podcast launched Thursday by Australian Community Media - the publisher of the Newcastle Herald.
The podcast, produced from the Herald by journalists Tom Melville and Laura Corrigan, speaks with members of the local community who raise concerns about the effect of coal ash on the Hunter's ecosystems and waterways.
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