The Bentley blockade against gas mining on the north coast has been ramped up even further with a group of local farmers on Saturday ‘locking on’ to an installation at the gate to the property Metgasco plans to drill its gas well.
On the adjacent property, scores more people at the weekend joined hundreds already at the blockade camp as D-day, when the police-escorted drill rig is set to arrive from Brisbane, looms this week.
The new lock-ons follow a government report released a few days ago which Lock the Gate says is a huge wake up call about CSG mining activities with its revelations about the contamination of aquifers in the controversial Pilliga forest as a result of the coal-seam-gas (CSG) project operated by giant global miner Santos.
The EPA report also confirms that CSG wastewater has leached a number of heavy metals, including uranium, out of the soil into the water table, which Lock the Gate says is a major risk of CSG activities never considered before.
At Bentley, the news is met with increasing defiance by campaigners who aim to stop the gas industry getting a foothold in the northern rivers and oppose industrialisation of farming country.
And several farmers from the surrounding Bentley district were happy to lock on just for that.
They were joined by Knitting Nannas (Against Gas) member Anne Thompson, who padlocked herself in chains to the same installation.
Campaigners say they are not surprised by more farmers and locals wanting to take part in the blockade as more bad news about the industry leaks out.
Lock the Gate says the NSW Environment Protection Authorirty (EPA) report also ‘exposes the fact that Santos have added more toxic wastewater to the leaking pond since they took over the CSG project in the Pilliga, and that they first identified problems in May 2012’.
Campaign coordinator Carmel Flint said the report ‘reveals for the first time that not one, but two, aquifers have been polluted, one at 20m depth and another at 35m, and that the deeper aquifer has four stock and domestic bores within five kilometres.
‘It shows that the salinity of the wastewater in the dam is almost as salty as seawater and that the shallower polluted aquifer is now extremely saline,’ Ms Flint said.
‘Perhaps the scariest aspect of this report is that it confirms that CSG wastewater has leached a number of heavy metals out of the soil into the water table – including uranium.
‘This means that mobilisation of dangerous heavy metals as a result of wastewater spills is a major risk with CSG activities that has never really been considered before.
‘The report also reveals that the EPA did not conduct any independent sampling of their own, but relied entirely on data provided by the company they were investigating, Santos, and that the NSW Office of Water were effectively sidelined from the process.
‘There’s 170 million litres of toxic wastewater now sitting above those two groundwater aquifers right now and no clear plan to clean it all up. Attempts so far to “‘pump out” the contaminated water from the aquifer have failed, according to this report.
‘The big question now is how on earth will Santos try to dispose of this waste if they go to full CSG production with 850 gas wells, do they think they will be allowed to spray this water on our crops, reinject
‘The NSW government should take this contamination incident as a warning about the dangers of the CSG industry, to hit the brakes and stop CSG companies from extracting many billions of litres of salty polluted water they don’t know how to manage,’ she said.
Ms Flint said the report reveals how little the government and the company can do to clean up CSG pollution once it occurs.
‘This report reveals a lot of important information that should have been released to the community over a year ago.
To view the latest video by David Lowe on ‘The Farmers of Bentley’ see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45Vjzi-O-
For the latest photos on the Bentley blockade visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidlowe1970/sets/72157644495100184/
Kombi convoy including aerials, from Gasfield Free Northern Rivers: https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidlowe1970/sets/72157644080457189/