Not-for-profit legal centre Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) will continue to closely monitor Vales Point power station on the shores of Lake Macquarie until the plant’s operator, Delta Energy, stops dumping coal from trucks onto outdoor stockpiles.
EJA lodged a complaint with the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) last month 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 has confirmed in writing to EJA that the 39-year-old Vales Point is the only power station in NSW where coal is 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 claims 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 Adam Gilligan has advised EJA that coal will be transported by conveyors from the end of April. 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 community workshops at the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music (Muswellbrook) on Wednesday 29 March and the Wyee Community Hall on Wednesday 19 April to hear community concerns.