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Environment Protection Authority

HV Operations fined $15,000 for saline leak into Parnell's Creek, Singleton

Media release: 31 March 2017

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined HV Operations Pty Limited trading as Hunter Valley Operations $15,000 for a breach of their Environment Protection Licence after a leaking pump caused saline water to be discharged from an on-site dam into Parnell’s Creek.

Hunter Valley Operations operates a coal mine located 24km north-west of Singleton. EPA officers were inspecting the site in November 2016 as part of a routine dam audit when they observed the saline water leaking from a pump seal.

Employees at the site advised that the leak had not been repaired for three days. EPA Director Hunter Karen Marler said while it was a small leak, it is the EPA's view the delay in such basic maintenance works was unacceptable.

“Staff were aware that this pump seal was leaking and should have acted much more quickly to stop the leak and clean up the spill,” Ms Marler said.

“There are rigid restrictions in place when it comes to saline water because unscheduled discharges can affect aquatic ecosystems in the Hunter River catchment. Saline water can also compromise the use of the river by irrigators and other water users.

“Hunter Valley Operations not only breached the conditions of their licence but put the environment at risk.”

The EPA issued the penalty notice to the company for failing to maintain the pump in a proper and efficient manner. The EPA also issued the company with a formal warning for water pollution arising from the incident. According to the Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme, there are opportunities for facilities to discharge saline water without penalty but this incident did not qualify. Under the scheme, industrial facilities can discharge saline water when there are high river flows and low background salinity levels.

The necessary conditions were not met for this incident, and so the company breached the conditions of their Environment Protection Licence.

Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions and prosecutions. For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy


Contact: EPA Public Affairs

Page last updated: 04 April 2017