The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has launched an investigation after an unknown amount of coal fines washed from a stock pile at the Russell Vale Colliery into Bellambi Creek.
The incident, which saw the pollution travel as far as the lagoon at Bellambi Beach, was reported by Wollongong Coal on Monday morning.
In a statement, the EPA said its officers inspected the Colliery and Bellambi Creek, collecting a large number of water samples in the process.
“Wollongong Coal have taken steps to prevent any further material from escaping but the next steps will involve determining the extent of environmental damage and measures required to mitigate its impacts,” the statement said.
“The EPA is also collecting evidence to determine potential breaches of environmental legislation and has directed Wollongong Coal to provide an incident report.
“The EPA has notified Wollongong City Council and local health authorities as a precaution, although the risk to human health is considered to be very low.”
Wollongong Coal said it had initiated “environmental response procedures” following the incident.
“A malfunctioning stockpile spray resulted in water carrying traces of coal to enter Bellambi Creek,” the company said in a statement.
“The water supply was isolated and mitigation measures undertaken, including water diversion.
In addition to notifying the EPA, the company said it has “engaged specialist consultants to undertake a Rapid Ecological Assessment, which will identify any impacts”.
“Wollongong Coal will continue to work closely with the EPA and its environmental consultants,” the company said.