MP slams ‘light’ fines
for Pilliga CSG pollution
STATE Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham has slammed the “extremely light” total $3000 fines imposed on coal seam gas (CSG) explorer Santos Limited for polluting a creek in the Pilliga with waste water from the controversial process.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has issued two penalty notices to Eastern Star Gas and given a formal warning to Santos.
“It is good that the EPA has investigated these incidents of CSG pollution, but the penalty is hardly a disincentive to the industry not to pollute,” Mr Buckingham says in a statement.
“CSG produces large amounts of waste water that can be highly saline and can contain heavy metals and volatile organic compounds and poses a risk to our water resources.
“The industry claims it does not pollute water, but here we have two fines and one warning for water pollution.
“The government should not let this industry go ahead while it remains unclear how it can deal with the large volumes of waste water it produces without risk to the environment,” Mr Buckingham says.
Meanwhile, the EPA’s acting chief environmental regulator, Mark Gifford, says an investigation was started after a report from the public, in December 2011, of potential polluted water discharges into Bohena Creek from the Eastern Star Gas Bibblewindi water treatment facility near Narrabri.
“The EPA has conducted a thorough investigation of the discharge of polluted water from the CSG site’s water treatment reverse osmosis plant into Boehna Creek,” says Mr Gifford.
“The reverse osmosis plant treats production water; production water is groundwater found in the coal seam that is brought to the surface as part of the CSG operations.
“The EPA’s investigation included review of CSG exploration activities and monitoring records from January 2010 to December 2011, as well as interviews with staff and water sampling.
“The EPA issued two penalty notices with fines of $1500 each to Eastern Star Gas for discharging polluted water containing high levels of salt into Bohena Creek in March and November 2010 – offences under section 120 of the Protection of Environment Operations Act 1997.”
At the time of incidents the site was owned by Eastern Star Gas, says Mr Gifford.
It is now owned and operated by Santos Limited.
“The EPA also issued a formal warning to Santos Limited for a discharge event in December 2011 that contained elevated levels of ammonia,” says Mr Gifford.
“The EPA does not believe that any environmental harm resulted from this event.”
The EPA will continue to assist the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services which regulates the exploration licensing of CSG activities and is leading the NSW Government’s investigation into the spills of CSG water in the Pilliga, says Mr Gifford.
The EPA will continue to support the government’s regulation of the industry, he says.