NSW water protection laws 'worthless'

Wastewater outflow pipe from the Springvale coalmine into the Coxs River.

Conservationists who gathered outside the Land and Environment Court on September 13 were extremely disappointed by the court decision to allow the continued discharge of polluted mine water into Sydney's drinking water supplies. They chanted "Wild rivers, not waste water" and "Clean water, not coal water" after the ruling.

Colong Foundation for Wilderness Director Keith Muir said: "4nature has failed to overturn the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) decision that allows Centennial Coal to discharge polluted water from the Springvale mine into the Coxs River.

“The Coxs River is part of Sydney's drinking water supply and this continued pollution makes the state's planning policy on drinking water not worth the paper it's written on."

Springvale coalmine, operated by Centennial Coal, north of Lithgow in the Blue Mountains, was granted a 13-year extension last year by the PAC. Remarkably, Sydney's catchment is reportedly the only publicly-owned drinking water area in the world where coal mining is allowed.

President of 4nature Andrew Cox said: "This ruling is the first time these catchment laws have been tested in the courts. The determination today shows they have comprehensively failed.

“If a coalmine can pump each day 19 million litres of salty, nutrient and metal laden water into the Coxs River that flows into the Warragamba Dam, then the law is failing to safeguard the basic right of our community to clean drinking water.

"4nature will closely review the judgement before deciding if it will lodge an appeal."

"It's a wrong decision, wrongly made," Muir told the gathering outside the court. "We're not going away. We will continue the fight to protect our wild rivers, and our water catchment areas."

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: "Time and again, Premier Mike Baird has sided with big business against the interests of local communities, the environment and our critical drinking-water supplies.

"The government must now act quickly to strengthen these ineffective laws to ensure they provide the protection for our water supplies that the community expects."

Established in 2010, 4nature is a volunteer-based conservation group seeking to protect the natural environment in Australia and the South Pacific. The Springvale mine case was supported by the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Colong Foundation for Wilderness, Lithgow Environment Group, National Parks Association of NSW and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

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