A farmer at Doubtful Creek near Kyogle, next to the property where coal seam gas (CSG) miner Metgasco drilled a test well last year, fears strange bubbles which have recently surfaced on his dam could be linked to the mining operation.
But the company rejects the claim, saying there’s ‘no way’ its operations could have impacted on the dam.
The exploratory drilling last year sparked a massive community backlash and blockade at which several protesters were controversially arrested. Metgasco left Doubtful Creek and suspended its operations soon afterwards.
Don Knight, who runs cattle on his 125-acre property, told Echonetdaily the bubbles in a large spring-fed dam surfaced late in December after he had cleared water couch from the dam’s surface.
Other neighbours and locals opposed to CSG exploration or mining in their neck of the woods rallied around Mr Knight this week and offered to raise money to pay for tests of the water by Southern Cross University.
The 66-year-old farmer, who has lived on the property for most of his life, said he had never seen bubbles in the dam, even when it was orginally a swamp.
During the past year he has watched the water of his dam, which is more like a lake, change to muddy and murky.
Mr Knight said the bubbles at first were quite frequent but ‘now you only see three or four of them every hour – there’s muddy water and a white foam on top’.
‘It looks like spring water coming up, there’s probably a cavity there now where they’ve bored through and closed a hole off, so pressure is pushing the water up,’ he said.
‘The problem is I’m not Superman and can’t see what they’ve done, they could have bored a few metres or a few miles down, and even bored sideways which they can do, they were there up to 52 weeks last year, we just don’t know as it’s all hush hush with Metgasco.’
But the company’s chief executive Peter Henderson told Echonetdaily that ‘there is no possible way that Metgasco’s operations could have had any impact on Mr Knight’s pond.
‘The well we drilled was a core well and it has now been fully decommissioned. It was drilled more than one kilometre from Mr Knight’s property,’ Mr Henderson said.
Mr Knight said he noticed the bubbling only occurred in one half of the lake and there were times when many bubbles surfaced simultaneously, causing the water to take on a new appearance.
Photo-journalist Marie Cameron, who photographed some of the bubbles this week, said that ‘trails of bubbles were rising to the surface and bursting’.
Ms Cameron told Echonetdaily that ‘some of the trails continued to burst in the same spot for up to a minute’.
‘The nearby shore line shows a buildup of white scum.’
Ms Cameron said that during the widely reported protests at Doubtful Creek last year, Mr Knight was one of the many local farmers who gave full time support to the action, backed by Lock the Gate movement.