The fine imposed on Origin Energy over a dust pollution incident at the company’s Eraring Power Station was “pitiful”, according to the NSW Nature Conservation Council.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority has fined the company $15,000, after dust from an ash dam at the Lake Macquarie power station was blown off the site by strong winds in September 2016, prompting multiple calls from the public.
The Nature Conservation Council has been highly critical of the fine amount, saying it “does nothing” as a deterrent.
“Tougher fines and stronger rules are needed,” the NCC’s CEO, Kate Smolski, said.
Michael North, Chairman of the Wangi Area Sustainable Neighbourhood Group, said the fine “was not worth talking about”. “It should have been hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.
A spokesman for Origin Energy said the company had taken measures to prevent a recurrence, including developing an ash dam dust monitoring network.
“These will monitor weather and dust levels around the site and be directly linked to spray irrigation units, so these may be employed in real time for dust suppression, should that be necessary,” the spokesman said.
The Independent Member for Lake Macquarie, Greg Piper, said while it was good there was dust monitoring, he called for the EPA to do more to check the area’s ambient air quality. There was no local independent monitoring system.
“It would be a whole lot better if they [the EPA] could monitor things like stack emissions and toxic air pollution in the same way they do in other parts of the State,” Mr Piper said, adding he would be raising the issue in Parliament when it resumed next week.
The Nature Conservation Council backed the call.
“Currently the closest EPA site is at Wyong, which is useless for getting any info about the power station pollution,” the NCC’s Ms Smolski said.
The Mayor of Lake Macquarie, Cr Kay Fraser, said the council continued to lobby the State Government for more comprehensive and independent ambient air quality monitoring.