Oral Presentation 9th Australian Stream Management Conference 2018

Heavy metal contamination of water column from a coal mine waste water discharge resulting in mobilisation of metal contaminants to riparian vegetation. Wollangambe River, Blue Mountains Australia. (#69)

Nakia Belmer , Ian A Wright

This study investigates the mobilisation of heavy metal contaminants from the Wollangambe Rivers water column to one species of terrestrial riparian flora (Acacia rubida) from one regulated coal mine waste water discharge. The study was conducted at one upland stream (The Wollangambe River) found within the Blue Mountains area of Sydney, New South Wales Australia.Two sample sites were used for this study, one as a reference site upstream of Clarence Collieries waste water inflow to the Wollangambe River (W1). The second was located approximately 200m downstream of Clarence Collieries waste water inflow to the Wollangambe River (W3). Five replicated samples were taken from both sample areas. Plants were selected within a 10m lineal stretch of stream edge. Each replicated sample was delivered to a NATA accredited commercial laboratory (EnviroLab Sydney) and analysed for 10 metals (Aluminium, Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Cobalt, Molybdenum, Nickel, Strontium, Thallium and Zinc). Results found statistical differences between nine of the 10 heavy metals when compared between sample location (upstream and downstream). This study has shown that one coal mine waste water discharge appears to have allowed an avenue for increased heavy metal concentrations within the Wollangambe Rivers water column to mobilise to riparian vegetation found within the terrestrial environment. The implications that the licensed waste water discharges contaminants are mobilising to terrestrial riparian vegetation is of major concern. It is recommended that further research should be undertaken by the NSW EPA to better assess the implications of heavy metal mobilisation to the terrestrial environment from EPL protected waterways. If in fact heavy metal contaminants are leaving the water column of their receiving waterways and mobilising to the terrestrial environment, serious long-term legacy pollutant impacts may persist.

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