Kimberley: elevated levels of chemical and radioactive waste in its fracking ponds

Published: June 25, 2018

Buru Energy has admitted that testing of flowback fluids from its 2015 fracking operations in the Kimberley showed elevated levels of the chemical contaminants Boron and Barium and the radionuclide Radium-228.

A spokesperson for Lock the Gate in WA Jane Hammond said Buru’s submission to the WA Fracking Inquiry provided frightening insights into the scale of development proposed for the Kimberley, and highlighted the risks of shale gas fracking to the iconic landscapes of Northern Australia.

“Buru have admitted that its proposed pilot gasfield in the Kimberley will involve 80 fracking wells, 9 hectares of waste water dams, 100 hectares of ‘super well pads’ and up to 190 truck movements of triple road trains per frack.

“Buru has admitted that it found elevated chemicals and radionuclides in its flowback waste water, despite having only tested a handful of fracked wells in the Kimberley so far.

“The Buru submission to the fracking inquiry also notes that it had three minor chemical spills during its test fracking program, illustrating that spills can and do happen.

“Buru has also revealed plans for the reinjection of wastewater into the ground – a practice which has caused serious seismic events in the United States.

“Fracking has not even started commercially and yet we are already seeing spills, elevated chemicals and radioactive material in waste water ponds and attempts to downplay the scale of the impacts.

“Fracking poses a massive risk to the iconic landscapes of Northern Australia, like the Kimberley. It is risky, dirty and wasteful.

“We’re calling for the WA Government to respond to thousands of submissions to the Fracking Inquiry and put a permanent ban on the practice” she said.

The admissions about water quality and reinjection are contained in Buru’s yet to be released submission to the WA Fracking Inquiry obtained by the Lock the Gate Alliance. A copy of the submission to the inquiry is available on request.

Key points from Buru submission on proposed Yulleroo gasfield:

  1. The elevated levels of Boron and Barium were found in both Buru’s Asgard 1 and its Valhalla North 1 fracking waste water ponds. The levels exceeded the World Health Organisation limits for acceptable levels for stock water.

  2. Representative samples of flowback fluid from Asgard 1 showed “relatively high concentrations” of the radioactive material Radium-228.

  3. Some wastewater could be used as drinking water for beef cattle if problematic elevated chemicals were diluted using additional groundwater.

  4. 80 fracking wells will be drilled over the 17 to 20 year expected life of the project and fracking wastewater will be reinjected into the Kimberley’s Laurel formation.

  5. Buru plan to build super well pads with up to ten gas wells per pad that would spiral out for kilometers underground, fracking different levels of the formation.

  6. Buru would build a 9ha gas processing facility in the middle of the gasfield and an additional 9ha waste water holding facility.

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