Press Release - April 19, 2024

Delta Electricity in court over mass fish kill at Lake Macquarie

The operator of Vales Point Power Station, Delta Electricity, has pleaded not guilty in court today over a distressing mass fish kill incident at Mannering Park, in Lake Macquarie in NSW.

Community members were devastated when two major fish kills occurred in August and September 2022, resulting in an estimated 15,000 dead fish and Whitespotted eagle rays washing up onto the shores of Lake Macquarie.

Today, Delta Electricity pleaded not guilty in the NSW Land and Environment Court to one criminal charge for a breach of a condition of its licence brought by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for the September fish kill.

The EPA is prosecuting Delta for its alleged failure to maintain its chlorine dosing plant in a proper and efficient condition, resulting in a faulty valve that caused a discharge of concentrated sodium hypochlorite into waters leading to Wyee Bay.

This is the first EPA prosecution against a NSW coal fired power station in more than a decade – with the only other being against Delta Electricity back in 2009 for its operations at Wallerawang power station, which has since closed.

The prosecution comes after sustained community campaigning against numerous pollution issues from Delta’s Vales Point – including its impact on community health from toxic air pollution, contamination of groundwater from its coal ash dump and the company’s efforts to get exemptions from NSW air pollution laws.

The new owners of Delta Electricity, Sev.en Energy AG, have a disturbing record overseas of seeking to avoid pollution controls, and extending the life of coal-fired power stations at the expense of community health.

Currently they are seeking to expand their Chain Valley and Mannering coal mines underneath Lake Macquarie, with an application before the NSW Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure for assessment.

Hunter Community Environment Centre Coordinator Jo Lynch said:

“The effects of Delta Electricity's terrible track record of excessive pollution have degraded local ecosystems for decades, and many wish Vales was the first power station scheduled to close on the lake for this reason.”

“Community members are watching this prosecution closely and if Delta is found guilty, they’re eager to see the devastation of the fish kill result in tangible improvements in the health of Lake Macquarie's ecosystem.”

EJA lawyer Jocelyn McGarity said:

“If Delta is found guilty, we hope the EPA fights hard for strong fines and penalties – including restoration orders that reflect the devastation and distress caused to our beautiful lake, its marine life and the community.

It should also send a strong signal to the EPA that protection of the community through tighter licencing of this polluting, clunky operator is warranted.

It’s also a timely reminder that at the same time Delta Electricity is being prosecuted, Delta Coal is looking to expand its coal mining operations underneath Lake Macquarie at Chain Valley and Mannering coalmines in order to keep supplying coal to Vales Point beyond 2027.

Given Delta’s history of damage, NSW Planning Minister Paul Scully must ensure his Department applies the highest level of scrutiny to any attempts to prolong Delta’s pollution and ensures robust conditions are attached to any approvals.”

Contact: EJA Media: 03 8341 3100 / [email protected]