Santos was issued with a $1500 fine on February 18 after a leaking storage pond at their Pilliga coal seam gas site in NSW was found to be contaminated with uranium at levels 20 times higher than safe drinking water guidelines.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority issued the fine saying the contaminated water had entered into the surrounding groundwater and was of environmental concern.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that lead, aluminium, arsenic, barium, boron and nickel were also detected at high levels.
Previous owner of the project Eastern Star Gas (ESG), has been blamed for not followed strict guidelines when building the original pond.
Two local farmers, Mark and Cherie Robinson, attended NSW Parliament this morning to call for a halt to CSG drilling in the area.
“I am absolutely appalled to learn that groundwater in the Pilliga has been contaminated by CSG activities. It is basically our worst nightmare come true” said Jeff Carolan, a cotton farmer from Wee Waa.
“We have been told repeatedly by Santos and the NSW Government that there was no risk to our water supplies from CSG – and now we know that is absolute rubbish.
“We’re all dependent on groundwater in this valley to keep our businesses viable, and our very livelihoods rely on uncontaminated water and soils.
“We are not going to stand by while Santos invade our best farmland and pollute our precious water resources and productive soils. They should immediately cease activities, pack up their equipment and depart – and never come back,” he said.
“It’s disgraceful that Santos have kept this contamination hidden and misled the local community for close to a year” said Narrabri resident Rohan Boehm.
“Santos have taken out ads in the local paper, telling people they pose no threat to water resources, whilst knowing full well that they have already polluted an aquifer in the Pilliga.
“Any small shred of trust that the local community might have had in Santos has been totally annihilated by this news. No one will ever believe a word they say again” he said.
“If this is the sort of damage that CSG activities cause in the early phases of exploration, then the amount of damage that would occur if Santos went to full production with 850 wells or more, is unthinkable” said Anne Kennedy, a farmer from Coonamble.
“Two weeks ago at Narrabri, over 600 people voted against CSG in the region and we’re calling on the National Party today to support that resolution and join with us to shut down CSG in north-west NSW” she said.
Santos told the Authority that it had started a program of rehabilitation in the area and was transferring water to a new plant being constructed at Leewood.