Pilliga Forest contaminated by coal seam gas

Published: February 09, 2012

Lock The Gate Alliance has recently received news of independent soil and water sample results from contaminated zones in the Pilliga forest near Santos' coal seam gas operation.

Drew Hutton, President of Lock The Gate said, "The testing, commissioned by environment groups and tested by an independent laboratory, contains disturbing information about the true impacts of coal seam gas and the appalling attitude of the coal seam gas companies."

"The results are incredibly disturbing. Santos reported that these areas were contaminated by a spill that occurred over 6 months ago, and have been blaming the spill and the subsequent cover up on the previous operator, Eastern Star Gas, while conveniently forgetting that at the time they owned a 20% stake in Eastern Star Gas," he said.

"But over that 6 months the region has had over 600mm of rain, so these results must be incredibly diluted and a pale shadow of the initial impact."

"Arsenic was found at twice the Australian drinking water guidelines, chromium at almost 4 times the level, lead – 5 times, nickel – 8 times. These are compared to levels that are considered safe for humans to drink, but that is only part of the story. Copper – used extensively in testing as it is highly toxic to invertebrates, was found at levels 136 times the Aquatic Ecosystem Guidelines.

"What were the initial concentrations of toxins in the ‘spill'? Why does the public have to rely on environmental groups to get testing done? This is the Government's job, and until the government has the resources to safeguard the people, the ecosystems and the water of Australia, they should shut this industry down. How many times do accidents have to happen before the government realises that the coal seam gas companies do not have the best interests of Australia at heart," he said.

Jacinta Green, Vice President of Lock the Gate Alliance, who recently visited the Pilliga forest said, "What has happened in the Pilliga is a disgrace, pilot production should never be allowed, anywhere, under an exploration licence."

"Companies should no longer be able to get away with saying ‘but it's just exploration', 90% of the population of NSW is covered by an exploration licence. This is why all coal seam gas activities need to be halted until a Royal Commission investigates all the impacts of coal seam gas," she said.

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