Water pumping ceases

EMERGENCY approvals granted to Energy Australia allowing the company to pump water from the Yallourn open-cut mine into Latrobe River have ceased.

The discharge approvals applied soon after the Morwell River collapsed into the mine in June last year, wiping out a coal supply conveyor belt and shutting down the remaining two.

The Environment Protection Authority gave Energy Australia approval, via a 30A permit, to pump Morwell River floodwaters from the mine into the Latrobe River, leading Environment Victoria to raise concerns about the impact on the river’s health, particularly confirmed increases in “river turbidity”.

An EPA spokesperson, at the time, confirmed the emergency, temporary approval allowed for practices that would otherwise be an offence under the Environment Protection Act 1970 but said it still included “stringent” monitoring conditions, ensuring there were “no long-term impacts to the environment”.

The spokesperson told The Express this week independent risk assessments, required under the approvals, had found “continued low risk of ecological and environmental harm to the Latrobe River from the flooded Energy Australia mine pit water discharges”.

“In ending this process, EPA required EnergyAustralia to return to previous licenced operations, whereby water that had accumulated in the mine was treated in a settling pond before being pumped to the Morwell River,” the spokesperson said.

An EnergyAustralia spokesperson said “as expected, we were able to complete the task of pumping water from the mine into the Latrobe River within the time frames set under the licence”.

“Throughout the process, we complied with the strict water quality and water volume limits set by the Environmental Protection Authority,” the spokesperson said.