ENVIRONMENTAL groups have renewed calls to end coal seam gas exploration in New South Wales after if was revealed one project has contaminated an aquifer with uranium at levels 20 times higher than safe drinking water guidelines.
Lobby groups across the Griffith region have been fighting a mining exploration licence application that covers a vast swathe of agricultural land, in fear any CSG mining could harm the area’s production abilities.
The Greens NSW spokesman on mining Jeremy Buckingham, who spoke to The Area News last week against the licence, called on the NSW government to halt all coal seam gas projects after the NSW Environmental Protection Authority discovered the Santos contamination in the Pilliga.
The EPA found that ground water had been seriously contaminated with toxic elements such as uranium, arsenic, lead and boron at its coal seam gas Bibblewindi water treatment plant near Narrabri.
Uranium has been detected in the aquifer at 335 micrograms per litre, which is 20 times safe drinking water levels.
“This is game over for coal seam gas,” Mr Buckingham said.
“Here is definitive proof that unconventional gas, such as coal seam gas pollutes aquifers with extremely toxic elements.
“The gas industry often states there are no ‘proven’ cases of gas extraction leading to aquifer contamination. Well here is the proof.”
Mr Buckingham said this incident could be just the tip of the iceberg.
“The dead vegetation in that area has given a clear visual indicator of this instance of contamination,” he said.
“There may be many, many more instances of pollution below ground that are not visible but are very real and will have long-term effects on the aquifers and environment.
“The fears of farmers and the community that coal seam gas was putting water resources at risk have been vindicated.”
Nature Conservation Council (NCC) CEO Pepe Clarke said the leak in gas giant Santos’ CSG project in the Pilliga was proof the industry pollutes vital groundwater and posed an “unacceptable environmental risk”.
“This industry should not be allowed to operate in NSW – it is dangerous and unnecessary,” Mr Clarke said.
“The NSW Environment Protection Authority attempted to conceal from the public the full facts of the contamination, which were only made public as the result of a freedom of information request.
“The government is putting the interests of a powerful, polluting fossil fuel industry ahead of local farmers, the environment and the wider public good.”