More than 100 protesters have returned this morning to the site of yesterday’s protest at Shannon Brook, near Casino, where Metgasco is constructing a coal-seam gas wastewater pond.
The protesters have brought shovels and say they are ‘prepared to fill in the ugly hole that the NSW government has allowed Metgasco to dig on the edge of the Casino floodplain’.
‘The response from the NSW minister for resources and energy, Chris Hartcher, to our concerns yesterday was an abysmal attempt to pass the buck to the local council,’ said Boudicca Cerese, spokesperson for Lock the Gate Northern Rivers.
‘The minister tried to split hairs about the difference between an evaporation pond and a holding pond, but no-one is buying it – a toxic pond is a toxic pond and we don’t want them.
‘The community is not going to stand by and see wastewater ponds proliferating rapidly across our region while the NSW government plays word games to justify their inaction.
‘We have returned here today to send a message that we consider such an outcome unacceptable and we feel the NSW government has misled the community on its policies by constantly spruiking their so-called “ban” on evaporation ponds.’
Greens NSW MP and mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham raised the issue in parliament yesterday.
‘The government grandly announced a ban on evaporation ponds last year but has now approved a five-year wastewater storage pond that operates exactly like an evaporation pond. It is completely dishonest,’ Mr Buckingham said.
‘The community has been forced to take this action because the government has failed to adequately protect the water resources in the northern rivers.
‘The Coal Seam Gas Inquiry recommended banning all open water storage of wastewater from coal-seam gas production including temporary storage and open storage in tanks. It viewed this as a significant environmental risk and the government should accept that recommendation in full.’
The dam was approved by Richmond Valley Council, which approves all dams on private land in its region.
Division of Resources has, however, advised Metgasco it will need further approval to use the dam for wastewater storage.
Metgasco was recently caught out disposing of produced water at the Casino sewage treatment plant, which was not permitted under the facility’s environmental licence. Metgasco disposed of more than one million litres between May 2011 and March 2012 before the Richmond Valley Council was told by the Environmental Protection Agency to cease accepting the water.