AGL has ended its trial of using coal seam gas waste water for irrigation in northern NSW after regulators found it left behind unacceptably high levels of salt and heavy metals. [Where? In the animals the fodder was fed to? In the soil? In the feed? On the EPA worker’s boots?]
Peter Jamieson, an operations chief with the NSW Environment Protection Authority, told a meeting in Gloucester on Wednesday that the agency determined the trial was “unlikely to be sustainable in the long term”, according to a power point slide shown to the gathering.
According to one person present, Mr Jamieson said regulators are considering granting a short extension of the trial – the approval of which expires on April 30 – to allow AGL to remove remaining waste water from its nearby Waukivory Gas Project. The EPA said Mr Jamieson did not make that comment. [Regulators or pollution enablers?!]
“The EPA reviewed the monitoring data from the irrigation trial and, based on this review, would not support a continuation of the trial,” an EPA spokeswoman said. [Wanna bet the company convinces the regulator to permit the pollution spreading to continue?]
“The EPA was concerned about the levels of salt and some heavy metals – the presence of these made the long-term viability of the program unsustainable.”
Fairfax Media sought comment from the EPA about the level of contamination resulting from the trial. [Did they get the toxic details?]
AGL, meanwhile, said it had “successfully completed” the two-year trial, in which 52 megalitres of so-called produced water from the four pilot CSG wells were “beneficially re-used”.
“We’ve been really happy with the results from the Tiedmans Irrigation Program and as we only have a very small volume of produced water left, we made the decision not to apply for an extension of the program,” John Ross, an AGL hydrogeology manager, said in a media release. [Must be mighty toxic nasty stuff!!]
However, local opponents, Groundswell Gloucester, said the trial was obviously a failure.
“This decision has clearly been forced upon AGL because the EPA had made it clear that they were unhappy with it,” said David Hare-Scott, the deputy chairman of the group.
“It should never have been approved and was never anything but a short-term and cheap option for disposing of produced water,” he said. “AGL should not now be permitted to continue storing its produced water in ponds as they would amount to evaporation ponds which are banned in NSW.”
The handling of CSG waste water has bedevilled the project, with issues including the detection of banned toxic BTEX chemicals in January. That discovery, revealed to authorities after a 12-day delay, prompted the EPA and the Division of Resources and Energy to suspend AGL’s operations pending the completion of two separate investigations that are yet to be finalised.
AGL also sought to discharge the waste water in Hunter Water’s sewage network via its contractor Transpacific Industries, despite the water agency rejecting the waste even after treatment.
Hunter Water met Transpacific officials on Thursday in a bid to repair the damaged relationship.
As Fairfax Media reported last month, it is understood BTEX chemicals – benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes – were found in the AGL waste water that was handled by Transpacific between October and December, including in the post-treatment waste discharged in December.
AGL said its storage contains 15 megalitres of “blended water”, with much of it to be irrigated by April 30.
As to future plans for handling waste water, “AGL is exploring all options and is still in negotiations with a third party contractor”, a spokeswoman said.
Asked about the level of contaminants that the EPA had found to be “unsustainable”, the company directed readers to 15 online reports.
The company said on Thursday its upstream gas operations will remain a stand-alone unit pending the results the results of an internal review due to be completed by the end of May.
AGL’s irrigation review involved mixing the waste water with fresh water to irrigate crops, including lucerne, triticale and forage sorghum, and an area of improved pasture.
“More than 1000 bales of silage/fodder [have] been produced to support local agriculture production activities,” Mr Ross said.
[Have a little toxic brew with your dinner, if the animals live long enough to get to your table]
“There has been no impact to adjacent surface water resources and underlying groundwater,” he said. “There have been no adverse impacts to soils and the fodder has been proven to be [poisonously] suitable as supplementary feed for cattle and sheep.” [!!!! Who believes him?]
Jeremy Buckingham, the Greens mining spokesman, said the halt of the trial after just two years suggests that it was a failure.
“It’s obvious that salt and heavy metals were going to build up in the soil over time and it was going to be embarrassing for AGL, so they’ve pulled the plug on this trial,” Mr Buckingham said. “If this method of disposing of waste water has failed with only a few exploration wells, then how will AGL dispose of the toxic water from over 100 production gas wells?”
A spokesman for Energy Minister Anthony Roberts referred the issue to the EPA. [Coward! Pass the buck, just like in Canada]