Fracking linked to tainted water
A DRAFT report by the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which linked coal seam gas operations to groundwater contamination is proof the industry presents a real risk to groundwater systems, according to Kyogle Group Against Gas spokeswoman Boudicca Cerese.
The draft document reports the EPA's findings following an investigation of groundwater quality at Pavillion in the US state of Wyoming where Canadian-based gas company Encana operates.
The report is the first reputable scientific study to link hydraulic fracturing (known as fracking) to groundwater contamination.
"The draft report indicates that groundwater in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing," the EPA said in a statement on December 8.
"Chemicals detected in the most recent samples are consistent with those identified in earlier EPA samples and include methane, other petroleum hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds.
"The presence of these compounds is consistent with migration from areas of gas production," the EPA said.
Encana has challenged the EPA findings, but according to Ms Cerese they "highlight the need for extreme caution to be taken" in the expansion of the coal seam gas industry in the region.
"This is exactly why we are calling for a halt to the industry to allow time for proper hydro-geological studies to be undertaken so we have a better understanding of things like connectivity of aquifers," Ms Cerese said.
"Despite industry assurances, it is now clear that there is a real risk to groundwater systems from the fracking process."
Metgasco spokesman Richard Shields echoed the comments of Encana in relation to the EPA finding, and pointed to a lack of any scientific work in Australia linking CSG operations to groundwater contamination.
"According to (Encana): 'The EPA's draft report and current view is based on a possibility, not a conclusion built upon peer-reviewed science. The cause of the compounds in the water remains inconclusive'," Mr Shields said.
"Rather than discussion about a draft report from the United States, which has not been reviewed by independent scientists - let's talk facts," he said.
"On December 5, 2011, the executive director of (the NSW Department of Trade and Investment), Brad Mullard, said that he was not aware of any Australian examples of aquifer contamination due to CSG activities.
"On September 15, 2011, the Queensland Minister for the Environment, said: 'Of nearly 200 groundwater bores close to coal seam gas operations within the Surat and Bowen Basins so far this year had revealed no evidence of water impacts from coal seam gas activities on surrounding aquifers'," he said.
The US EPA has begun a nationwide study on the potential impacts of fracking on drinking water resources there.
Its draft paper on groundwater contamination at Pavillion will be subject to a peer-review process which will be led by a panel of independent scientists.
Ms Cerese called on Metgasco to come clean with what the full extent of their plans are for the Northern Rivers.