Santos has been fined $1500 by the NSW Environment Protection Authority after waste water from coal seam gas extraction leaked from a holding pond and contaminated a nearby aquifer in the Pilliga forest of north-western NSW.
The incident was discovered during routine testing by Santos 12 months ago and work practices by the previous owners of the project were blamed for the incident, which resulted in increased levels of lead, aluminium, arsenic, barium, boron and nickel being found in the aquifer, as well as uranium at 20 times more than the safe drinking water guideline.
The EPA emphasised that the water was not being used for livestock, irrigation or human consumption and chief environmental regulator Mark Gifford said the small fine “reflects the level of environmental impact, which was small”
But the incident was the first time an aquifer has been contaminated – something opponents of the CSG industry have long feared – and gives environmentalists fresh ammunition against the industry’s push to expand.
Wilderness Society national director Lyndon Schneiders called on the federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt to stop all CSG operations immediately, “until there is a full independent and transparent investigation into the industry”.
“We now have proof that coal seam gas mining contaminates groundwater and aquifers, flying in the face of the industry’s claims,” Schneiders told The Sydney Morning Herald.
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