Plans to up discharge

YALLOURN power station is moving to expand its water discharge allowance by more than 50 per cent, as it anticipates a gradual ramping up of water pumping from its open cut mine to the Latrobe River.

While EnergyAustralia has not yet breached its license conditions, group executive manager operations and construction Michael Hutchinson said an increased open cut catchment area, combined with recent high rainfalls, had rendered the current licence allowance insufficient.

Under their current licence, EnergyAustralia is allowed to discharge an annual average of 50 megalitres per day, at a daily cap of 104ML, however the company is seeking an expansion to 80.5ML daily average, with a 150ML daily cap.

Mr Hutchinson said that although the amount of coal mined had not increased, the mine catchment had grown since the original licence was granted in April 1996. “The mine, including revegetated sections, acts as a large catchment; as the footprint of the mine increases, so does the amount of rainwater run-off that is captured which would otherwise have entered the river system,” Mr Hutchinson said.

“We need to be able to pump the extra water from the mine to ensure we have uninterrupted access to coal.

“Without an increase to the licence volume, there is a risk that in the future we may not be able to pump out enough water from the mine.”

Environment Victoria campaigner Victoria McKenzie-McHard said after the collapse of the Morwell River Diversion into the mine last year, which sent billions of litres of water into the open cut, it was little surprise Yallourn was struggling to manage its water issues.

“Water that’s been sitting in the mine runs the risk of having toxic metals and other chemicals leaching into it; that can cause serious impacts for river health and farm land further downstream,” Ms McHard said. However Mr Hutchinson said all water pumped into the Morwell River was treated to ensure the quality met the standards set under the Environment Protection Authority licence agreement and was comparable to river water quality.

A community consultation session will be held on 13 March at Yallourn North Bowling Club from 4.30pm to 6pm.

For more information about the consultation session or the licence the application, phone 5128 2803.