A Southern Queensland grazier has labelled the process behind a new QLD Government report dictating how toxic coal seam gas waste will likely be stored as “window dressing”, and has warned the proposed disposal methods threaten the Murray-Darling River System.
The Queensland Government recently released its long-awaited CSG Brine Management Action Plan, which seeks to offer a permanent solution to how more than five million tonnes of toxic coal seam gas waste will be disposed of and held in perpetuity.
Despite the formation of a stakeholder group which included Southern Queensland farmers, the report exclusively references advice from two bodies that are funded by gas companies - the UQ Centre for Natural Gas, and the gas lobby, APPEA.
It concludes the most likely option for the 5-6 million tonnes of toxic “brine” will be to store it in landfill within “lining” - a solution that independent scientists say is fraught with risks (see advice here), including that the lining would fail, especially during flood events, and that the stored waste could then leach into the environment over time.
Chinchilla grazier Glen Beasley, whose property lies four kilometres downstream from a waste facility that has been given permission to store up to 15 million tonnes of CSG brine, said the report wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Mr Beasley was among those involved in the stakeholder forum.
“The impression I had over a number of meetings was that very few (government and industry representatives) were prepared to put their head above the parapet and talk realistically about the environment and human health side of it. Every time those issues were raised… the issues seemed to be rolled over,” he said.
“It looks as though the government is absolutely determined, regardless of the window dressing of a stakeholders forum, not to make any real change.
“Salt is not benign. Salt is the number one agent for soil degradation globally. But on top of that, salt, in this case, is laced with a range of toxins including radioactive material, arsenic, BTEX chemicals, et cetera, all of which pose serious human health issues.
“This has implications not just for those in the immediate vicinity - the capacity for this toxin to spread into the Murray-Darling River system is obvious.
“It seems it’s only a matter of time, if this facility does go ahead, and stores the toxic waste, that we have a human health and environmental disaster. At the end of the day, clean air, clean soil, and clean food, is a basic requirement for all of humanity.”
Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland Coordinator Ellie Smith said it was unsurprising a gas industry-informed report had recommended dumping the waste in landfill.
“The Palaszczuk Government has let the coal seam gas industry dictate how it will dispose of the many millions of tonnes of waste it is producing. Simply dumping it in landfill will mean future generations of Queenslanders will be forced to grapple with a toxic contamination disaster,” she said.
“We’d prefer to see the gas industry deal with its waste now, through beneficial reuse, rather than burying it, which will impact generations of Queenslanders into the future.
“Ultimately, the fact we are even having this discussion is yet another example of the immense impact coal seam gas production is having on Queenslander communities. Farmland is sinking, water bores are running dry, and the extraction and burning of gas is driving ever more extreme fires, droughts, and floods.
“The Palaszczuk Government must stop approving new gasfields. Five million tonnes of toxic gas waste is already five million tonnes too much.”
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Background: Since it began in the early 2000s, the coal seam gas industry has stored its waste in gigantic storage lakes throughout Southern Queensland. Drone vision of these lakes and reverse osmosis plants within Kumbarilla State Forest is available here (Password: lockthegate). Photos are available here.