Mining company Metgasco has dismissed claims that ponds containing coal seam gas wastewater in the region could overtop with the extreme rainfall expected in the next few days.
Lismore Greens candidate for Lismore Adam Guise this morning called on Metgasco and the NSW Government to verify the integrity of holding ponds.
‘Metgasco has coal seam gas wastewater storage ponds dotted over our region, particularly around Casino,’ Mr Guise said.
‘These ponds are open topped and risk overflowing with the extreme rainfall of 300mm or more predicted over the next few days.
‘Back in 2012, Metgasco allowed its Shannon Brook wastewater ponds to reach excessively high levels, which may have overflowed during heavy rainfall and wind.
Metgasco chief executive Peter Henderson said Mr Guise’s statements demonstrated a ‘complete lack of knowledge about Metgasco and the gas industry, and a disregard for the truth’.
‘Metgasco no longer has any holding water ponds,’ Mr Henderson said in a statement.
‘Three ponds were completely decommissioned and the sites rehabilitated in 2013, with landholder and government sign-off of the decommissioning and rehabilitation programs.
‘Three other ponds have been handed back to the landholders. A thorough environmental and veterinarian study demonstrated that the CSG water in the ponds was not toxic, just a little more salty (1/10 of the salt in sea water) and that it was suitable for stock watering use.
Mr Henderson said the government had approved the landholder’s right to use the water for this purpose.
Mr Guise claimed that the Shannon Brook wastewater ponds sit on farmland that drains in the Bungawalbyn wetlands.
‘In light of BTEX chemicals being found in the wastewater of AGL’s fracking operations in Gloucester, allowing exposed open-topped holding ponds pose a real threat to our water and farmland,’ he said.
‘Metgasco has no safe way of disposing of the coal seam gas wastewater.
‘The fact that AGL has just recently been refused disposal of its fracking wastewater in Gloucester, shows that this industry has no viable wastewater disposal methods.
‘This ongoing saga of Metgasco shows that coal seam gas operations are incompatible with the northern rivers climate, where extreme rainfall events often occur.
‘It is absolutely ludicrous that the Liberal-National party government has allowed open-topped wastewater ponds in our region.
‘To ensure the protection of our farmland and water, this industry needs to be shut down and licences across the northern rivers cancelled.’
Mr Henderson disagreed.
‘Metgasco has released data to the community confirming the quality of the water, as above, and showing that there is no BTEX in the water.
‘The ponds were subject to approval for installation and external audits during their use. It is difficult to see how the ponds could ever have been a safety or environmental threat of any kind.
‘Metgasco has always complied with its licence requirements for pond design and operation. Contrary to Mr Guise’s statement, Metgasco was not fined for providing adequate freeboard.
‘Mr Guise should get his facts right, stop this scare mongering and start telling the truth.
‘Mr Guise also chooses to confuse the public about CSG operations, fracking and AGL’s experience.
Meanwhile, the mining company announced recently that it was keen to restart exploration activities at the Rosella site near Bentley.
In a statement to shareholders issued on 30 January, the company said it was hoping that its Supreme Court challenge to the suspension of its licence would be lifted.
‘There is chance that this matter will be resolved in the March 2015 quarter,’ the statement said.
‘When the suspension is lifted, the company will be seeking an assurance from the NSW Government that lawful activity in the northern rivers will be supported and protected.
‘It will also need to consider the impact of changes being made under the government’s new gas policy.
‘Metgasco reserves its right to make a claim for damages against the NSW Government as a result of the drilling suspension,’ the statement said.
The company said however that it preferred to work with the NSW Government ‘in a constructive manner to reach a solution to this matter’.
Echonetdaily has reported that the ALP, Greens, and the Christian Democrat parties have all said they would ban coal seam gas mining from the northern rivers region if elected at the March election.
The National Party has not given such an assurance.