A TRIAL involving the use of coal seam gas waste water to irrigate crops at Gloucester should be immediately halted following revelations of the contamination of an aquifer near another coal seam gas project in the Pilliga Forest, the Greens say.
The state government is facing mounting calls to scrap a memorandum of understanding with gas company Santos to fast-track its project near Narrabri, after confirmation of contamination of an aquifer caused by water leaking from a pond used to hold waste water produced when gas is extracted from wells.
Test results showed uranium levels at 20 times the Australian drinking water guideline for human health, along with elevated levels of lead, aluminium, arsenic, although the Environment Protection Authority said the metals occur naturally in soil and water and are not ‘‘additives’’.
Santos was fined $1500, following an investigation that began last March.
On Monday, Santos said it was fully remediating the project site it had acquired from Eastern Star Gas, and the EPA had found no risk of harm from the leak.
But the incident sparked calls for the suspension of gas projects pending further investigations of the industry’s impacts.
Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said that should include a halt to AGL Energy’s trial use of waste water to irrigate crops at Gloucester.
‘‘This industry produces a huge volume of this water but so far the management of it, and the impacts, has been a case of ‘‘make it up as you go along’’ regulation,’’ he said.
The trial, which began last April, involves blending the saline-produced water with fresh water to irrigate crops at AGL’s Tiedmans Property.
A consultant’s report prepared for AGL that looked at monitoring results for the six months to December said the blended water complied with irrigation guidelines with the exception of one exceedance of ph levels.
An AGL spokeswoman said there were no elevated readings of salt in surface water or groundwater resulting from its activities.
‘‘AGL is confident that its current adherence to industry best practice, regulatory requirements and continual monitoring of the local environment demonstrates that the trial should continue,’’ she said.
The Newcastle Herald reported yesterday that Hunter Water has refused to accept waste water from AGL at a treatment plant because of concerns about chemical contamination from the water produced following hydraulic fracking of wells.
AGL has yet to receive final approval to ‘‘frack’’ four pilot wells.