An anti coal seam gas campaigner whose actions in following a truck driver who had been dumping toxic drill mud from a Metgasco test drilling site at Glenugie near Grafton have been vindicated by a Ballina court.
All charges against Terry Elvey, of Halfway Creek, in relation to the action, including allegations of stalking, were dismissed last Friday in Ballina Court by magistrate David Heilpern.
Mr Elvey was the latest anti-CSG protester to have charges against him dismissed in court.
Mr Heilpern said that no substantive evidence had been presented by the prosecution to prove any offence by Mr Elvey beyond reasonable doubt.
The case was brought by police after the driver of the truck carrying the toxic waste from Metgasco’s drilling site complained people were following him and he felt angry that someone might follow him to his house.
The truck driver, Jade Wesley Rose, of Pimlico, said that he took the load of what he called ‘just mud out of the ground’ to a disposal facility in Queensland, but couldn’t remember exactly where.
Mr Rose also told police that he observed a car driven by Mr Elvey illegally cross double white lines on the road.
Mr Heilpern said that Mr Elvey’s testimony showed genuine concern for what would happen to the drilling waste in Mr Rose’s truck, and had no intention to cause fear, so could not be convicted of two charges of stalking.
Mr Elvey told the court that he had concerns about the destination of drilling mud being removed on several occasions from the Glenugie site and he had tried to follow the truck driven by Mr Rose. He had been stopped and warned off by police.
Mr Elvey said that on the third occasion, he succeeded because he was in fact ahead of the truck which was followed from Glenugie by another environmental protester.
The truck driven by Mr Rose belonged to his company, Ballina Pumping Service, which was contracted to cart the drilling mud by Metgasco.
Mr Elvey said that Mr Rose had been involved in several altercations with protesters at the drilling site.
A spokesman for Northern Rivers Lock The Gate Alliance, Ian Gaillard, said after the case that the drilling waste contained a number of toxic ingredients and was only approved for transport to a treatment plant in Queensland.
‘Metgasco has a history of operating outside its terms of consent,’ Mr Gaillard said.
‘The company was fined for illegally disposing of fluids from drill sites into the public waste treatment plant at Casino in 2012.
‘If Metgasco engaged only in lawful activities, as it claims, then why are they so secretive? No one could be sure where the mining waste would end up.’
But Metgasco’s managing director Peter Henderson told Echonetdaily that the company was not fined for illegally disposing of fluids.
Ballina Court on Friday was told that the truck carrying toxic waste was followed to a Whites Lane property owned by Mr Rose.
According to the APN Media, investigations by staff from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Ballina Shire Council determined that last year Mr Rose, the managing director of Ballina Pumping Service and Northern Rivers Vacuum Excavation, had illegally stored waste material at his Pimlico property.
This inlcuded 15,600 litres of grease trap waste, 10,500 litres of waste oil and 3000 litres of drilling or excavation mud.
The EPA found there was the potential for serious environmental harm. The property is close to the Richmond River. Mr Rose was fined $2,250 by the EPA.
Charges against Mr Rose and his company for illegal dumping of hazardous waste are scheduled to be heard in Ballina Court on 19 September.
Mr Elvey had told the court he was simply a concerned citizen trying to prevent pollution from the CSG industry.
‘It is all very well for the government to issue mining conditions, but who will verify that regulations are being obeyed?
‘Turns out we were right to follow the truck, which didn’t go anywhere near Brisbane.’
Mr Gaillard said that samples of the drilling mud were found to contain high levels of arsenic and other contaminants.