Greens call for halt to AGL’s CSG water irrigation trial

The Greens have called for a halt to trials using CSG water to irrigate crops at Gloucester following revelations of a water contamination incident in the Pilliga Forest.

Yesterday it was confirmed Santos was fined $1500 by the Environmental  Protection Authority after the contamination of an aquifer in the Pilliga Forest caused by water leaking from a CSG pond used to hold the waste water and brine produced when gas is extracted.

The incident has led to calls to stop all CSG operations nation-wide until there is an independent investigation into the industry.

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said that should include a halt to AGL Energy’s trial use of waste water to irrigate crops at Gloucester, Newcastle Herald reported.

‘‘This industry produces a huge volume of this water but so far the management of it, and the impacts, has been a case of ‘‘make it up as you go along’’ regulation,’’ Buckingham said.

The trial involves irrigating crops at AGL’s Tiedmans Property with a mix of produced water from coal seams blended with fresh water.

An AGL spokeswoman said there were no elevated readings of salt in surface water or groundwater resulting from its activities and monitor results showed the blended water was in line with irrigation guidelines.

“AGL is confident that its current adherence to industry best practice, regulatory requirements and continual monitoring of the local environment demonstrates that the trial should continue,’’ she said.

In a statement yesterday Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner said the contamination at the Santos site occurred when the project was "operated by a completely separate company in 2007 under the previous government's flawed regulatory regime".

Stoner said the Memorandum of Understanding signed with Santos which will see a final decision on the project’s future made by January 2015 would not compete with environmental standards.

"The project will only be approved should it pass the government's stringent assessment processes, Stoner said.

Meanwhile, Santos says it was “doing the right thing” and building new ponds to store water.

As part of its work in NSW, Santos plans to drill 15 exploration wells in the Pilliga State forest and restart existing pilots that have been shut in since Santos took over Narrabri operations in November 2011

The company was granted permission to drill a further eight exploration wells in the region in September.

Santos eastern Australia vice-president James Baulderstone said calls for CSG activity to be banned in NSW showed “gross exaggerating” by the industry's opponents.

“This is a minor incident, the fine was $1500. This incident has been fully investigated by the EPA and they have found that there is no risk or harm to either animals or humans,” he said,

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