Coal-seam gas explorer Metgasco will be allowed to dump up to five million litres of its so-called ‘production water’ into the Casino sewerage system following approval by the EPA.
The move comes despite the same authority chastising it for the same activity a little over a month ago and fining the council involved.
Following months of unauthorised dumping, Richmond Valley Council finally put in an application to allow it to receive the wastewater from Metgasco’s Casino test site should the company’s holding ponds be in danger of overflowing.
Surprisingly, the application was approved by the NSW Office of Water, which said it undertook a review of the effect on the plant and established that ‘the sewerage treatment plant (STP) can effectively treat the produced water without compromising the environmental performance of the plant,’ a spokesperson said.
Richmond Valley Shire general manager John Walker said the action will lessen the risk of overflows, and told ABC radio it will ‘allow compliance to an audit’. He added that ‘we’re running a sewerage treatment plant and I can tell you a lot worse things go in there than this salty water’.
EPA’s chief environmental regulator Mark Gifford told media last night it was requiring the council ‘to ensure that monitoring is undertaken and to report to the EPA during the water delivery and treatment process’.
Yet only last month, a letter written by EPA’s north coast region manager Brett Nudd to the Environmental Defenders Office said the Office of Water described the disposal of water via an STP as ‘inappropriate’.
The turnaround appears to suggest the EPA’s local arm has been overruled by head office and that Metgasco has no other option but to remove some water from its swollen holding ponds to prevent a spill.
Metgasco has announced it will hold a press conference today to explain the move.
Today an activist faces Casino Court over actions during construction of a second holding pond at Metgasco’s test site. Davey Bob Ramsey locked himself to a bulldozer during expansion of Metgasco’s CSG wastewater ponds.
On 18 June the company was given a ‘direction to give effect to Condition 8 of PEL16 to establish adequate freeboard in temporary holding ponds,’ by the Division of Resources and Energy.