Rous Water has called on the state government to prevent gas exploration in areas it is planning to explore for underground water sources.
The county council, which supplies Lismore, Ballina, Richmond Valley and Byron LGAs, has identified subterranean water in its future water strategy as the best and most cost-effective source to meet its increased needs in the coming decades.
But the recent pollution of aquifers in the Pilliga by Santos mining with uranium and a number of heavy metals has triggered serious concerns among the board at the prospect of something similar happening in the northern rivers.
At its most recent board meeting Rous Water unanimously passed a motion that the NSW government and all the relevant state members of parliament be informed of the specific areas Rous Water has identified as potential future water sources for region.
‘The motion requested that the government not approve any exploratory or production gas wells in the vicinity of those areas under investigation until such time as Rous Water’s future water strategy is fully determined,’ said one board member, Lismore councillor Simon Clough.
There are two petroleum exploration licences (PELs) – 16 (Metgasco) and 445 (Dart) – where drilling activity could adversely affect Rous’s future water strategy.
Cr Clough, who is also a member of Lock the Gate, said, ‘I am deeply concerned about recent coal seam gas activities in the Pilliga area, which have seen Santos mining fined for polluting an aquifer with uranium at 20 times acceptable drinking water levels’.
‘There was also lead, aluminium, arsenic, barium, boron and nickel at elevated levels compared to livestock, irrigation and health guidelines,’ said Cr Clough.
‘There are also numerous reports of significant groundwater drawdown and contamination of groundwater by methane gas and other pollutants, especially in south-east Queensland,’ he added.
‘I believe it is critical that the community’s water resources are protected for the community’s future use. It is absolutely unacceptable that this community resource for 100,000 people could be damaged or destroyed for private profit before it can be fully investigated for the possible benefit of the whole community.’