Department of Environment and Science officers investigated BMI's New Chum site on January 29.
Department of Environment and Science officers investigated BMI's New Chum site on January 29.

Waste company ordered to stop releasing contaminated water

THE State Government has ordered a waste company to stop pumping contaminated water out of a mining void into an Ipswich creek, which it was allegedly doing for two weeks.

The Department of Environment and Science issued Bogside Mining Industries with an environmental protection order (EPO) directing the company to stop dewatering the mine void on its New Chum site into Six Mile Creek on February 3.

Department officers inspected the site on January 29 in relation to a complaint about an alleged unlawful pumping station on the site which may have resulted in water being pumped from the void into the creek.
BMI holds an environmental authority (EA) for mining activities on the site, which is a former coal mine.

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Department officers found BMI was pumping water into the creek and pumping infrastructure installed on the site was capable of discharging at 70L a second.

They also found the pumping started about two weeks prior to their visit and it was pumping 24 hours a day when operational.

The department was satisfied that the water being pumped out of the void contained contaminants including dissolved salts expressed as elevated levels of electrical conductivity, sulphate and boron.

"The pumping equipment is fitted with a continuous monitor for a range of parameters, including pH, dissolved oxygen, electrical conductivity and turbidity," the order reads.

"The discharge infrastructure also includes pH correction unit (sulphuric acid dosing) with an online monitoring system designed to shut off the pump if discharge water does not comply with the discharge limits specified in the EA."

BMI's EA states it must not release any contaminants to surface waters.

The maximum penalty for a company wilfully contravening an EPO is $4.17 million and $834,000 or five years in prison for an individual.

A DES spokesman said BMI has lodged an internal review of this EPO with the department.

"DES is currently undertaking the internal review," he said.

DES Deputy Director General Rob Lawrence wrote in a letter to Ipswich Residents Against Toxic Environments secretary Geoff Yarham this week that BMI has applied for another EA for waste disposal.

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"The department issued an EA subject to conditions that permit (BMI) to dewater the void provided the water confirms to the limits stated in the EA," he wrote.

"The limits in the EA restrict the release of contaminants identified to be of concern if they exceed the specified levels.

"The conditions of the EA also require ongoing monitoring of surface waters to demonstrate that the proposed surface water releases do not create any detrimental impact upon the Six Mile Creek system throughout the dewatering process and during the lifetime of the landfilling operations.

"(The EA) has not commenced and consequently BMI is not permitted to undertake the activities stated in this EA.

"(The EA) will commence only if the Planning and Environment Court upholds (BMI's) appeal and grants the development permit for the waste disposal facility."

BMI was contacted for comment.

Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.

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