NSW Government must rectify gaping holes in Santos' groundwater impact assessment

Published: July 13, 2018

Lock the Gate Alliance is calling on the NSW Government to give the people of the Narrabri and Coonamble districts a solemn pledge that it will ensure Santos fixes up the gaping holes in its groundwater impact assessment following criticism from expert reviewers.

A review of Santos’ response to submissions by Dr Matthew Currell found serious failings:

  • Very little data has been collected that characterises the groundwater that will be targeted for removal by Santos, and how it interacts with other groundwater systems;
  • there are contaminants of significant potential concern within the groundwater that will be brought to the surface by Santos that were not flagged in the EIS and are not given any further substantial discussion in the Response to Submissions, including concentrations of Arsenic above levels known to be hazardous to human health;
  • Santos has underestimated the volume of waste salts that will be produced by its water treatment plant by 50% or more.

Dr Currell’s review, along with several other expert reviews, has been provided to the Department of Planning and Environment, which is now assessing the project.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “The fate of North West farming communities now hangs on the good faith of the Department of Planning and the NSW Government.

“Let’s be frank: you can have the snazziest computer model in the world but if you don’t use comprehensive and accurate data to calibrate it, you might as well be plucking numbers out of a hat to guess the impact of this gasfield on precious groundwater.

“We can’t afford to muck around with this. It’s absolutely imperative that this risky project is subject to the highest possible standard of assessment and decision-making.

“Santos has had 12 months since it developed its EIS to rectify the problems in it and it seems they haven’t done so. It's Response to Submissions continues to leave gaping holes in key areas of concern.

“We’re seeking assurance from the Government that all the missing data will be collected and analysed before any decision is made and that the final decision puts the interests of the people of Narrabri and New South Wales first.”

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