Lismore City Council (LCC) has called on state MPs to ban any ‘exploratory or production’ gas wells in areas that may contaminate underground water sources.
Councillors last week approved a notice of motion to write to the government asking for the ban in order to strengthen Rous Water’s plan to use groundwater sources in its future water strategy.
The vote to write to the state government over the issue (Cr Graham Meineke against) came only days before last week’s suspension of Metgasco’s petroleum licence.
The notice of motion was put forward by Cr Simon Clough, who sits on the board of Rous Water, and identified in its recent draft future water strategy specific areas for future groundwater sources in the Lismore, Ballina, Richmond Valley and Byron local government areas (LGAs).
Rous Water says using groundwater sources could be critical for its plan to provide potable water to its growing customer base, and had identified two petroleum exploration licences (PELs) which could adversely affect their plans (No 16 owned by Metgasco and No 445 owned by Arrow).
Cr Clough said groundwater contamination concerns were two tiered.
‘One is the threat of contamination of aquifers through the leakage of well casement such as we saw at the last well that Metgasco drilled, which went into tight sands at Casino; we learnt that that well had been leaking since its inception,’ he said.
‘The other concern of groundwater contamination is through the leakage of holding ponds.
‘We saw this happen recently in the Pilliga where Santos had a leak in the lining of one of its holding ponds, which resulted in uranium poisoning of two aquifers, one at 20 metres and one at 35 metres.
‘Both of these aquifers are now unable to be rehabilitated,’ Cr Clough said.
A Council staff report said the precautionary principle should be applied to any activity that could compromise the region’s future water supply.
Cr Clough said he backed the staff recommendation for the precautionary principle because ‘the adaptive management style of these mining companies is not sufficient; you cannot repair an aquifer’.
‘On the driest continent on Earth, resources in our country are not coal, iron ore or minerals, it is actually water, which is the one we can’t survive without.’
Cr Greg Bennett questioned Cr Clough over a possible conflict of interest as the chair of Lock the Gate.
‘This is a question I have given quite a lot of consideration to,’ Cr Clough said.
‘If I were receiving any kind of financial reward, if I were receiving any significant reward in any sense, I would say there could be, but in this situation I am essentially representing my community, the people who voted for me,’ he said.
Cr Clough said the move to strengthen the water strategy had unanimous support from the other councillors on the Rous Water board.