Report details murky

THE “lack of analysis” in a scientific report used to bolster Yallourn power station’s application to increase water discharge from its open cut mine has been criticised by an environmental engineering expert.

Power station operator EnergyAustralia had submitted a works approval application with the Environment Protection Agency to expand its water discharge allowance by more than 50 per cent, in anticipation of a gradual expansion of the mine’s rain catchment area.

A supplementary report prepared by engineering and environment consultancy firm GHD, submitted as part of the application, found an immediate increase to the licence discharge was necessary to keep the mine operational, and a failure to do so would see mine storage ponds overflow.

However in response to GHD’s report, Monash University senior lecturer in environmental engineering Dr Gavin Mudd found the advice lacking “on many fronts”, including a failure to adequately monitor a range of heavy metal and salt levels within the discharge, and a failure to compare the water quality with conservation council guidelines

“They have absolutely glazed over so much of this; you would expect a hell of a lot more substance in a report for such a big discharge application, for this professional firm you would expect a much bigger evidence base,” Dr Mudd told The Express.

Dr Mudd’s criticisms were detailed in a formal objection to the works approval by Environment Victoria, in which campaigns director Mark Wakeham challenged previously made assertions by EnergyAustralia the application was not connected to the “catastrophic” collapse of the Morwell River Diversion into the open cut last June.

Mr Wakeham pointed to a line within the works approval application in which EnergyAustralia’s senior environment manager stated the company was keen to progress the works approval “to align with the finalisation of the current s30A discharge licence for the Yallourn mine dewatering”.

However an EnergyAustralia spokesperson again rejected the connection, stating an application to vary licence conditions was submitted before the diversion collapse, so they were clearly separate matters.

In response to Dr Mudd’s observations, the spokesperson said water quality standards were set by the EPA and all water from the mine was treated before it was discharged to ensure licence agreements are met.

“In relation to the additional water quality parameters raised in the submission, these parameters are all routinely sampled and tested at locations upstream and downstream of the discharge in the Morwell River, as well as in the discharge, and will continue to be monitored with all results reported to the EPA,” the spokesperson said.

An EPA spokesperson said the application process would test the validity of GHD’s report, after which they would consider requesting further information if needed.

A decision on the application is due on 14 June.