Lock the Gate Alliance, Central Queensland locals, and rare bum breathing turtles are relieved after the Federal Environment Department declared a plan by Santos to dump untreated coal seam gas water in the Upper Dawson River should be a “controlled action”.
Santos had argued its plan to dump the untreated wastewater should not be a controlled action, but the department said the company’s plans should be assessed under the EPBC Act due to potential impacts on threatened species and water.
Concerns have been raised that Santos’ plan, associated with its GLNG coal seam gas development in Central and Southern Queensland, would threaten the critically endangered white throated snapping turtle and vulnerable Fitzroy River turtle.
The white-throated snapping turtle is subject to a 10-year national recovery plan, which identifies declining water quality as a major threat to its survival.
Both turtle species breathe via cloacal respiration (bum breathing) and were located during Santos’ own surveys of the river and the site where the wastewater would be dumped.
“The Environment Department has called Santos’ bluff - anyone could see a plan to dump potentially unlimited amounts of untreated Coal Seam Gas water would have a significant and damaging impact on the biodiversity of the Upper Dawson, including on critically endangered turtles,” Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said.
“Santos has displayed typically arrogant behaviour with this application, and we’re glad the Environment Department has referred this matter for assessment under the EPBC Act.
“While we remain deeply concerned Santos has put forward this environmentally destructive proposal in the first place, these rare and endangered bum breathing turtles can breathe a little easier - for now.”
Theodore resident and Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland Upper Dawson member Ann Hobson said the “controlled action”, if applied to all applications to discharge coal seam gas waste water into the river, should reduce potential impacts on the turtle’s habitat.
“It’s death by a thousand cuts from resource companies. Add 7000 more wells planned upstream from this one, and the combined pollution could easily drive species like the White Throated Snapping Turtle closer to the brink of extinction,” she said.
“There is very little evidence about what the cumulative impact of dumping unlimited amounts of coal seam gas waste water into the environment may be on the plants and animals that live here.
“We are happy the Environment Department is investigating further. We want to see every one of these proposals given proper scrutiny and controlled for the safety of our unique and irreplaceable river and its wildlife.”