Updated: December 13, 2011
'Licence to pollute' was never obtained for CSG water dumped in creek
The Wilderness Society (Newcastle) Inc.
14 December 2011
A document obtained under Freedom of Information suggests that Santos are breaching pollution laws by discharging water into a creek system in the Pilliga, according to environment groups.
An approval given by the Department of Primary Industries required Santos to obtain a licence to pollute (known as an Environment Protection Licence) if the water they discharged was of lower quality than the natural creek water. However, no such licence has ever been obtained.
Last week, environment groups released water samples which showed that ammonia levels in water being discharged into Bohena Creek were 52 times more than the natural receiving water. It was also revealed that data held by Santos itself showed high levels of ammonia in the discharge water.
The approval also reveals very weak monitoring requirements which have allowed these failings to continue for years unnoticed until environment groups stepped in and conducted their own tests.
Friends of the Earth spokesperson Carmel Flint said, " Coal seam gas company Santos has failed in its obligation to obtain a licence before discharging polluted water into the Pilliga forest. Their own data showed high levels of ammonia which they should have acted on.
"This raises questions about the response from Santos last week, stating that it was not in breach of its authority. Under their approval, Santos are not exempt from laws which make it an offence to pollute any waters.
"This approval does, however, reveal an incredibly weak compliance and enforcement regime in relation to coal seam gas in NSW. Santos was only required to conduct a limited number of tests of discharged water, and most potential contaminants were not even measured.
"Furthermore, there was no requirement for Santos to take water samples from upstream to test the quality of the natural water for comparison purposes. In fact, all that is required of them is a 'visual' inspection of the creek system" she said.
"This is another scandalous failing of regulation of coal seam gas mining in NSW. This company has been dumping up to 356 million litres of waste water into the creek each year without even the most basic controls or measurements" said Prue Bodsworth, campaigner of The Wilderness Society.
"This pollution has occurred right under the nose of NSW government regulators, who should have been conducting their own water sampling. The NSW Environment Minister now needs to step in urgently and use her legal powers to prevent any further pollution of this creek system" she said.
For more information contact:
Carmel Flint: 0400 521 474
Prue Bodsworth: 0427 417 870
For more information, please contact:
The Wilderness Society Newcastle Inc
Hunter Heritage Centre,
90 Hunter Street,
Newcastle, NSW, 2300
Phone: 02 4929 4395