Lock the Gate Alliance and Central Queensland locals are alarmed after Santos lodged a plan to dump untreated coal seam gas (CSG) water in the upper reaches of the Dawson River, near platypus and critically endangered White Throated Snapping Turtle habitat.
Santos’ referral to the Federal Government under environment laws shows the company seeks to dump unlimited amounts of raw CSG wastewater into the river during flow events while also continuously releasing millions of litres of desalinated wastewater each day.
Santos’ referral documents reveal that two threatened turtle species - the critically endangered White-throated Snapping Turtle and the vulnerable Fitzroy River Turtle - have been found near the site where they propose to release the polluted water.
Both species breathe through their bottoms (known as cloacal respiration) and would likely suffer if water quality declines in the river.
The white throated snapping turtle is the subject of a national recovery plan, although recent reports suggest the turtle is still struggling.
“This proposal will allow polluted water high in salt and other contaminants like boron to be dumped directly into the Dawson River, in an area where the critically endangered White-throated Snapping turtle is known to live,” said Lock the Gate Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith.
“Further downstream, there are conservation volunteers spending hours wading through mud to save the eggs of the critically endangered snapping turtle, yet Santos thinks it can just dump untreated CSG wastewater into their known habitat.
“The national recovery plan for the snapping turtle identifies declining water quality as a major threat, and yet Santos is claiming there will not be a significant impact on the species or on this stretch of the Dawson River which has recognised high conservation value.
“This referral is totally inadequate and we’re calling for the Federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, to require Santos to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement for the project, and to refer it to the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on water resources.”
Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland Upper Dawson secretary Ann Hobson said, “We cannot afford to further endanger the turtles, eels, fish, platypus and water-birds whose lives depend on the survival and health of invertebrates and micro-organisms in the water column.
“We know of no research into the downstream distribution or effects of the salts found in CSG ‘associated water’ when discharged into the river.
“It is foolhardy to increase the discharge of untreated water, even during a flood event, without this scientific information.”
According to Santos’ referral documents, the company discovered specimens of both the white throated snapping turtle and the Fitzroy River Turtle, near the site it proposes to dump the untreated waste.