Regional Comparison of Impacts to Stream Macroinvertebrates from Active and Inactive Coal Mine Wastewater Discharges, Sydney Basin, New South Wales Australia
American Journal of Water Science and Engineering
Volume 5, Issue 2, June 2019, Pages: 62-75
Received: Apr. 19, 2019; Accepted: May 29, 2019; Published: Jul. 1, 2019
Views 505      Downloads 49
Nakia Belmer, School of Science and Health, Western Sydney University, New South Wales, Australia
Ian Alexander Wright, School of Science and Health, Western Sydney University, New South Wales, Australia
Article Tools
Follow on us
This study investigates macroinvertebrates from waterways receiving wastewater from coal mines in the Sydney Basin. Three of the coal mines were inactively mining oar and four actively mining oar during sampling. Macroinvertebrates were collected from each collieries receiving waterway upstream and downstream of all mine wastewater inflows. All the coal mines wastewater discharges are licensed and regulated by the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA). Results of the study show that the coal mine wastewaters being discharged are having varying negative impacts to the receiving waterways aquatic ecosystem through macroinvertebrate biotic indices, despite whether mining is active or inactive. Biotic indices measured at active and inactive coal mines show that actively mined wastewaters are most likely causing less of an impact to the receiving waterways aquatic ecosystem than inactively mined wastewaters. All the waterways receiving un-treated (inactively mining) wastewaters recorded statistical differences for all biotic indices when analysed between their upstream and downstream sample locations. This was in contrasted to the actively mined (treated wastewaters) with only one of the streams sampled recording statistical differences for all biotic indices. Results suggest that once mining ceases and the treatment of the coal mine wastewaters subsequently ceases the receiving waterways aquatic ecosystem are clearly more degraded. This is of great concern as once mining ceases so does the treatment of their wastewaters. It is recommended that the NSW EPA further investigate measures of treatment post coal mining at these mines to ensure further degradation of the receiving waterways ecosystem does not occur.
Benthic Macroinvertebrates, Coal Mine Wastewater, Coal Mining, Environmental Management, Coal Mine Regulation, Active Mines, Inactive Mines
To cite this article
Nakia Belmer, Ian Alexander Wright, Regional Comparison of Impacts to Stream Macroinvertebrates from Active and Inactive Coal Mine Wastewater Discharges, Sydney Basin, New South Wales Australia, American Journal of Water Science and Engineering. Vol. 5, No. 2, 2019, pp. 62-75. doi: 10.11648/j.ajwse.20190502.13
Copyright © 2019 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Jarvis, A. P., and Younger, P. L., 1997. Dominating chemical factors in mine water induced impoverishment of the invertebrate fauna of two streams in the Durham Coalfield, UK. Chemistry and Ecology. vol. 13. pp. 249-270.
Johnson, D. B., 2003. Chemical and microbiological characteristics of mineral spoils and drainage waters at abandoned coal and metal mines. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution. vol. 3. pp. 47-66.
Pond, G. J., Passmore, M. E., Borsuk, F. A., Reynolds, L., and Rose, C. J., 2008. Downstream effects of mountaintop coal mining: comparing biological conditions Using family and genus-level macroinvertebrate bioassessment tools. Journal of the North American Benthological Society. vol. 27. pp. 717-737.
Younger, P. L., 2004. Environmental impacts of coal mining and associated wastes: a geochemical perspective. Geological Society. London. Special Publication. vol. 236. pp. 169-209.
New South Wales Environment Protection Authority., 2013. Environment Protection Licence. Licence 726. viewed 18 December 2018. .
Brake, S. S., Connors, and K. A., Romberger, S. B., 2001. A river runs through it: impact of acid mine drainage on the geochemistry of West Little Sugar Creek pre- and post-reclamation at the Green Valley coal mine, Indiana, USA. Environmental Geology. vol. 40. no. 11. pp. 1471-1481.
Banks, D., Younger, D. L., Arnesen, R. T., Iversen, E. R., and Banks, S. B., 1997. Mine-water chemistry: the good, the bad and the ugly. Environmental Geology. vol. 32. pp. 157-174.
Wright, I. A., and Burgin, S., 2009a. Comparison of sewage and coal-mine wastes on stream macroinvertebrates within an otherwise clean upland catchment. south-eastern Australia. Water. Air and Soil Pollution. Vol. 204. pp. 227-241.
Wright, I. A., and Burgin, S. 2009b. Effects of organic and heavy-metal pollution on chironomids within a pristine upland catchment. Hydrobiologia. vol. 635. pp. 15-25.
Wright, I. A., 2012. Coal mine ‘dewatering’ of saline wastewater into NSW streams and rivers: a growing headache for water pollution regulators. In Grove. J. R. and Rutherfurd. I. D (eds). Proceedings of the 6th Australian Stream Management Conference. managing for Extremes. 6-8 February 2012 Canberra. Australia. published by the River Basin Management Society. pp. 206-213.
Wright, I. A., McCarthy, B., Belmer, N., and Price, P., 2015. Water Quality Impact from the Discharge of Coal Mine Wastes to Receiving Streams: Comparison of Impacts from an Active Mine with a Closed Mine. Water Air Soil Pollution. vol. 227. no. 155.
Wright, I. A., and Ryan, M. M., 2016. Impact of mining and industrial pollution on stream macroinvertebrates: importance of taxonomic resolution. water geochemistry and EPT indices for impact detection. Hydrobiologia. DOI 10.1007/s10750-016-2644-7.
Price, P., and Wright, I. A., 2016. Water quality impact from the discharge of coal mine wastes to receiving streams: comparison of impacts from an active mine with a closed mine. Water. Air and Soil Pollution. vol. 227. no. 5. pp. 155.
Belmer, N., Tippler, C., Davies, P. J., and Wright, I. A., 2014. Impact of a coal mine waste discharge on water quality and aquatic ecosystems in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. in Viets. G. I. D. Rutherfurd, and R. Hughes. (editors). Proceedings of the 7th Australian Stream Management Conference, Townsville, Queensland. pp. 385-391.
Cohen, D. J., McQuade, C. V., Riley, S. J., and Adeloju, S., 1998. Sampling surficial sediments of a river receiving minewater discharges. Coal Operator’s Conference. University of Wollongong, Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences.
Cohen, D., 2002. Best practice mine water management at a coal mine operation in the Blue Mountains. Master of Engineering (Honours) thesis. University of Western Sydney, Penrith.
New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW OEH)., 2015. Clarence Colliery discharge investigation. viewed 2 February 2018. .
Battaglia, M., Hose, G. C., Turak, E., and Warden, B., 2005. Depauperate macroinvertebrates in a mine affected stream: Clean water may be the key to recovery. Environmental Pollution. vol. 138. pp. 132-141.
Giam, X., Olden, J. D., and Simberloff, D., 2018. Impact of coal mining on stream biodiversity in the US and its regulatory implications. Nature Sustainability. vol. 1. pp. 177-183.
Wright, I. A., Belmer, N., and Davies, P., J 2017. Coal Mine Water Pollution and Ecological Impairment of One of Australia’s Most ‘Protected’ High Conservation-Value rivers Water Air Soil Pollution.
Mudd, G, M., 2009. The Sustainability of Mining in Australia: Key Production Trends and Their Environmental Implications for the Future. Research Report No RR5, Department of Civil Engineering, Monash University and Mineral Policy Institute, Revised - April 2009.
Goldbery, R., 1969. Geology of the Western Blue Mountains, Geological survey of New South Wales, Bulletin no 20, Department of Mines.
Goldbery, R., and Loughlan, F. C., 1977. Dawsonite, alumohydrocalcite, nordstrandite and gorceixite in Permian marine strata of the Sydney Basin, Australia, Sedimentology, 24, 565-579.
Strahler, A., 1952. Dynamic Basis of Geomorphology. Geological Society of America Bulletin. vol. 63. pp. 923-938. (1952) 63 [923: DBOG] 2.0. CO; 2.
Chessman, B., 2003. SIGNAL 2-A Scoring System for Macro-invertebrate (‘Water Bugs’) in Australian Rivers, Monitoring River Heath Initiative Technical Report no 31. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
Gooderham, J., and Tsyrlin, E., 2002. The Waterbug Book, A guide to Freshwater Macroinvertebrates of Temperate Australia. CSIRO publishing, Collingwood, Victoria.
Hawking, J., H. and Smith, J. S., 1997. Colour guide to invertebrates of Australian inland waters Co-operative research Centre for Freshwater Ecology. Murray-Darling Freshwater research Centre, Albury.
Wright, I. A., Chessman. B. C., Fairweather, P. G., and Benson, L. J., 1995. Measuring the impact of sewage effluent on the macroinvertebrate community of an upland stream: the effect of different levels of taxonomic resolution and quantification. Australian Journal of Ecology. vol. 20. pp. 142–149.
Pond, G. J., 2010. Patterns of Ephemeroptera taxa loss in Appalachian headwater streams (Kentucky. USA). Hydrobiologia. vol. 641. pp. 185–201.
Lenat, D. R., and Penrose, D. L., 1996. History of the EPT taxa richness metric. Bulletin of the North American Benthological Society. vol. 13. pp. 305–307 [34] Gray, N. F., & Delaney, E. (2008). Comparison of benthic macroinvertebrate indices for the assessment of the impact of acid mine drainage on an Irish river below an abandoned C- S mine. Environmental Pollution. vol. 155. pp. 31–40.
Chessman, B. C., 1995. Rapid assessment of rivers using macroinvertebrates: a procedure based on habitat-specific sampling, family level identification and a biotic index. Australian Journal of Ecology. vol. 20. pp. 122–129.
Metzeling, L., Perris, S., and Robinson, D., 2006. Can the detection of salinity and habitat simplification gradients using rapid bioassessment of benthic invertebrates be improved through finer taxonomic resolution or alternatives indices? Hydrobiologia. vol. 572. pp. 235-252.
Clements, W. H., Carlisle, D. M., Lazorchak, J. M., and Johnson, P. C., 2000. Heavy metals structure benthic communities in Colorado Mountain streams. Ecological Applications. vol. 10. pp. 626–638.[33] Gray, D. P., & Harding, S. J. (2012). Acid Mine Drainage Index (AMDI): a benthic invertebrate biotic index for assessing coal mining impacts in New Zealand streams. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research. vol. 46. pp. 335–352.
Science Publishing Group
1 Rockefeller Plaza,
10th and 11th Floors,
New York, NY 10020
Tel: (001)347-983-5186