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Issue #1630      March 12, 2014

Proven: Pilliga groundwater contaminated by CSG

The Lock the Gate Alliance is calling for all coal seam gas exploration in NSW to stop immediately after proof emerged last week that Santos have contaminated groundwater in the Pilliga. It has been revealed that groundwater near the Pilliga in north west NSW has been contaminated as a result of a leak from Santos’ CSG exploration pilot in north west NSW.

Uranium levels recorded in the groundwater as a result of CSG activities are at 20 times the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. It is the nightmare that the communities of the north west dreaded, and we hope that the contamination is contained and does no harm. Groundwater is the lifeblood of towns and rural businesses and the worst fears of local farmers are being realised. The NSW government must halt coal seam gas drilling in the Pilliga and protect the groundwater of the North West from further damage and contamination.

Documents obtained by the Wilderness Society showed that groundwater in the Pilliga has been contaminated.

The NSW Environmental Protection Austhority have confirmed the contamination event, but failed to act with any proper legal force, choosing to fine Santos only $1,500 dollars.

“This proven case of contamination in the Pilliga makes a lie of all the claims Santos have made about their CSG operations being safe,” said Drew Hutton, president of Lock the Gate Alliance.

“The uranium contamination of groundwater confirms that CSG is a dangerous, toxic industry and it needs to be stopped dead in its tracks before more extensive damage is done.

“It’s extraordinary that contamination as serious as this has been swept under the carpet by the NSW government and trivialised with a paltry fine.

“We are demanding that the NSW government now stops all CSG exploration immediately, and conducts a far reaching investigation into how things have gone so horribly wrong,” he said.

“Groundwater contamination with high levels of uranium from CSG activities is our worst nightmare,” said Mark and Cherie Robinson, dryland farmers from west of the Pilliga, who were recently arrested protesting Santos CSG drilling activities in the Pilliga forest.

“We are completely reliant on groundwater on our farm and cannot survive without it. Our water is our lifeblood. Now we know for sure that CSG puts all that at risk.

“There’s no way we are going to allow this polluting industry to spread any further across our region. It needs to stop now,” they said.

The Pilliga is an important recharge area for the Great Artesian Basin, which means Santos actions are a direct threat to our greatest inland water resource.

Take action

Santos have said this type of contamination could never happen – now we know that it already has. The NSW government must immediately halt all CSG drilling in the Pilliga and throughout NSW in response to this alarming news, and protect our groundwater from any further damage and contamination.

Phone the Premier and Deputy Premier

Coonamble farmers Mark and Cherie Robinson are travelling to Sydney to call for the government to stop the coal seam gas drilling in the Pilliga following contamination of groundwater with uranium and heavy metals from Santos’ operations there.

Will you stand with them and add your support by phoning the Premier and the Deputy Premier and asking them to stop all coal seam gas drilling now that there is concrete evidence that it is not safe?  

Barry O’Farrell and Andrew Stoner Premier and Deputy Premier of NSW Premier: (02) 9228 5239 Deputy Premier: (02) 9228 5209

Talking Points

Start with your name and where you live, then:

After all the promises by Santos and the NSW government that CSG wouldn’t contaminate water resources, the worst fears of farmers in the North West have been realised, and waste water from Santos’ coal seam gas operation has leached into groundwater and contaminated it.

It was very poor form for the NSW government to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Santos just days after the EPA fined them for contaminating groundwater in north west NSW.

The fine of just $1,500 issued by the EPA for such serious pollution is totally inadequate and reveals a system that is broken.

The Pilliga is a recharge aquifer for the Great Artesian Basin – the lifeblood of western NSW. Will they now act to protect this irreplaceable resource, and announce a moratorium on any further coal seam gas drilling?

Lessons for Qld

Queensland should heed a strong warning following the disturbing revelation that coal seam gas company, Santos contaminated an aquifer with uranium and other toxic heavy metals.

Santos is operating a huge coal seam gas project in Queensland. The company’s joint venture partner, Eastern Star Gas, allowed water to seep from one of its CSG water holding ponds into a shallow aquifer. The aquifer was damaged beyond repair.

Drew Hutton said such pollution could occur when a holding pond leaks, when a frack or drilling operation goes wrong or even when contaminated “produced water” is sprayed on roads as dust suppressant.

Mr Hutton said the Pilliga incident proved contamination is a real problem and Queenslanders should be on notice.

“This incident has put the lie to the CSG industry’s claim it has never contaminated an aquifer and should set alarm bells ringing about similar incidents happening in Queensland,” he said.

“Once an aquifer has been contaminated, it cannot be fixed and so there are farmers and towns all over Queensland hoping that such an incident does not happen in their communities.”

Queensland authorities are totally dependent on the companies informing them if such a polluting incident happens. At present companies are able to spread produced water from the coal seams all over our rural roads with no regulatory controls whatever.

“This means that salt, uranium and other toxic pollutants could be sprayed over the countryside in any amounts and it is legal to do so,” said Mr Hutton.

“The Queensland state government has also given the Origin energy company permission to spread drilling muds over agricultural land with no controls over dangerous contaminant levels.”

Next article – Abbott wants bosses’ unions or no unions

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