Local coal-seam gas exploration company Metgasco has failed to respond to allegations that it has been illegally transporting wastewater from the company’s holding ponds at a disused quarry near Casino.
Lock the Gate Northern Rivers (LTGNR) claimed yesterday Metgasco might be carting water away from ponds at the council-owned quarry to avoid overflows from the site.
This revelation comes on the back of public confirmation from Richmond Valley Council that these ponds are being operated illegally by the company.
LTGNR is organising a protest on the public footpath outside the company’s headquarters at 139–141 Johnson St, Casino today from 10am.
Ian Gaillard, LTGNR co-ordinator, claims Metgasco’s chief financial officer told a local resident in an email that ‘If our ponds approach their capacity we cart water away to be treated’.
‘As far as we can tell, Metgasco has no authority to be removing this toxic water from the ponds, as the consent conditions clearly state “only clean and unpolluted waters are to leave the site”,’ he said yesterday.
‘This raises a whole lot of questions about how much potentially hazardous wastewater is being carted away, where it is being disposed of, why the ponds are unable to contain the water volumes being dumped there and whether they may have overflowed in the past.
‘It also casts serious doubt on Metgasco’s ability to safely operate a gas field if they can’t even adequately manage a couple of ponds.’
Echonetdaily contacted Metgasco’s CEO Peter Henderson yesterday for comment; he put us in touch with the company’s external affairs spokesperson Simon Richardson, who in turn promised to forward us ‘some words’ by email in response to the claims. No information had been received by this morning.
The company told other local media it had operated the ponds on the Bruxner Highway at Woodview, west of Casino, safely for four years, but declined to be drawn on the allegations.
LTGNR is calling on Richmond Valley Council to investigate the claims and undertake a contaminated-land investigation at the site, including the commissioning of comprehensive independent sampling of soils adjacent to the ponds where overflow may have occurred.
‘Recent results from coal-seam gas operations in northwest NSW and Queensland show that this wastewater can contain unsafe levels of harmful substances such as heavy metals, petrochemicals, hydrocarbons and ammonia,’ said Mr Gaillard.
‘We believe that council has a duty of care to adjacent landholders and the wider community to ensure that no pollution of surrounding lands and waterways has occurred as a result of these operations.’