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Will Swanbank, near Ipswich, become Arrow Energy’s environmental salt-bomb?

A licensed landfill at Swanbank, near Ipswich, has been earmarked to potentially receive more than 117 tonnes of concentrated waste salt water from planned coal seam gas operations in the Surat region.

Lock the Gate south east Queensland (SEQ) says if Arrow Energy goes ahead with its salt disposal plan, the gas company could send up to 2.9 million B-double trucks filled with coal seam gas waste brine concentrate down the highway from Surat to Swanbank, via Toowboomba and Ipswich.

Arrow Energy's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) details estimates of 770 gigalitres of waste water from planned production from Surat's coal seams – enough to fill Sydney Harbour one and a half times. Assuming an average salt concentration of 4,500 mg/L, Arrow expects that treatment of coal seam gas water will generate in the order of 4.5 t of salt per megalitre of coal seam gas water — more than 117 million tonnes of concentrated brine over the life of the project.

The EIS states: "Although beneficial use is the preferred option for brine management, for the purposes of this impact assessment it is assumed that brine will be stored in dams and disposed to a suitably licenced landfill". 

It then goes on to say: "The closest currently available suitably licenced waste disposal facility is located at Swanbank, near Ipswich. This EIS has assumed that all brine concentrate will be trucked to Swanbank."

Lock the Gate SEQ spokesperson Innes Larkin said the wider impact of Arrow's planned Surat project on communities and road infrastructure was clearly unacceptable and poorly thought through: "Arrow's best case estimate of 117 million tonnes of brine equates to 2.9 million B-Double truck loads of 40 tonnes each, travelling through Toowoomba and down the Warrego Highway to Swanbank. "

"Arrow Energy’s plan for disposal of the salt produced by its Surat Gas Project isplainly ridiculous and impractical. The truth is, Arrow has no idea what to do with the salt, and the likely outcome would be storage in dams across the
Darling Downs. Whatever the case, storage on the Darling Downs or at Swanbank would be a ticking environmental time-bomb."

"Aside from the potential impacts of effectively mining groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin and Murray Darling Basin, Arrow Energy's plans for disposal of this water are clearly not sustainable." 

Lock the Gate Alliance is encouraging members of the community to write a short comment, as part of submissions on Arrow's EIS before the closing date this Thursday 14 June 2012. 

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