19 Mar 2014

Santos Can't Bury The Truth About CSG Any Longer

By Naomi Hogan

With confirmation that a NSW mine has leaked poisons into a local aquifer, the efforts of big companies to defend CSG mining look increasingly fraught, writes Naomi Hogan

The coal seam gas industry has justified its stampede across Australia by claiming it is no threat to our water resources, yet this myth was blown out of the groundwater last week with the revelations that an aquifer has been contaminated in the north-west of the state.

The only reason we know about this and other coal seam gas damage is because of the dedicated work of community members, farmers and conservationists.

Santos, the company which operates the mine, was fined a paltry $1500 for poisoning the aquifer in the Pilliga Forest with uranium (detected at 20 times safe levels) and other toxic heavy metals, and spent last week trying to downplay the evidence.

Santos Vice President for Eastern Australia James Baulderstone accused the Sydney Morning Herald, which broke the story, of “misleading” reporting in an Australian Financial Review web article.

That reference was later removed from the AFR website and replaced by Baulderstone accusing the Wilderness Society, which revealed the spill, of “gross exaggeration”.

When Santos shareholders last week called for the company to withdraw from the project, Santos turned on its own investors, saying they were being led by “extremist activist groups”.

After trying to shoot the messengers, Santos took aim at the message.

Santos hydrogeologist Glenn Toogood tried to convince media the aquifer was not an aquifer, preferring to call it a “shallow perch layer”. When it was pointed out that the NSW Environment Protection Authority used the term aquifer, Toogood responded: “We’ve had long consultations with the EPA over this. It's a terminology that the EPA has decided to use.”

He then defined an aquifer as a body of water that “could sustain a domestic or an irrigation use. If you tried to take water out of this shallow perch layer it would dry up very quickly.” That argument fell flat when media revealed the aquifer fed at least one bore used for cattle.

Baulderstone then made a rare and brief media appearance to roll out Santos’ usual defence — blame previous owner Eastern Star Gas. The excuse is starting to wear thin more than two years after Santos took over Eastern Star.

Santos fails to mention it was Eastern Star’s major shareholder before the takeover and owned 35 per cent of the exploration lease over the Pilliga. It also reveals a failure in due diligence when a rudimentary sight inspection at the time would have been hard pressed to miss the hectares of petrol-tainted sludgy pools and dead trees.

Baulderstone tried to paint the company as a good corporate citizen because it alerted authorities of this latest toxic mess, before departing the media conference under a barrage of questions.

But Santos has a legal obligation to report environmental damage. Maybe it would have been better if Santos let the neighbours know about the spill or even the people of NSW, whose land and aquifers it wants to puncture with 850 gas wells.

The company has not exactly been forthcoming about its long, tragic history of environmental damage while exploring for gas in the Pilliga. Santos even had the temerity to issue a statement after this latest contamination event stating: “Santos always acknowledged, including in media releases and community presentations, concerns about the integrity of the Bibblewindi ponds.”

The only problem is that Santos issues its press releases after media have reported the damage. Santos did not report an earlier spill of 10,000 litres of toxic waste water to the EPA until a farmer had alerted local media to the story. In fact Santos denied the spill, laughably blaming eucalyptus for the discoloured water.

This latest uranium contamination only came to light because the Wilderness Society discovered a mention of a “suspected leak” while trawling through the government’s review of an assessment for yet more coal seam gas wells, documents the NSW Office of Coal Seam Gas forgot to release to the public for more than two months “due to administrative oversight”.

Otherwise we would have had to rely on the EPA which has been as forthcoming as Santos. The EPA did write a press release about the latest “spill” which included “salts and other elements” but failed to mention that those other elements included such cancer-causing nasties as uranium, arsenic, lead, barium, boron, aluminium and nickel all in unsafe concentrations.

Having written the media release, the EPA seems to have missed the next usual step, to send it to media, as no reporters we have spoken to say they received it. The EPA did, however, post it on its website a week after Santos was fined and two days before Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner signed a memorandum of understanding with Santos to fast-track the production phase of 850 wells.

We only know of the toxic elements of this latest spill because there was a mention of uranium in heavily censored documents that we requested under freedom of information laws.

It was only under questioning from media that the EPA confirmed the concentration of uranium 20 times safe levels, and handed over the measurements of other toxic nasties. It was only under further questioning that the EPA handed over its report on the spill, which makes for disturbing reading.

It is littered with terms such as “inadequate data” and “comprehensive limitations”, and is based on a report commissioned and paid for by Santos, the company being prosecuted.

With such a lack of transparency from Santos and the regulators, the community can have little faith that our environment, our water supplies and our farmland will be safe.

The Pilliga is the state’s last great inland forest, its creeks feed the Murray-Darling river system and it’s a major recharge zone for the Great Artesian Basin, a critical water source for farmers and inland Australia. It is too precious a place to be a gas field. The coal seam farce must end.

Australian communities deserve better than a gas company spinning the truth and an EPA acting as their apologist.

New Matilda received a reply from Santos, which can be read in the comment thread below.

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O. Puhleez
Posted Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 12:30

Whether it is called an 'aquifer' or a 'shallow perch layer' it is still groundwater, which CSG operators assure all and sundry will be well and truly protected, and either to the day after forever, or till the gas runs out: whichever comes sooner.

That problems will keep recurring follows from the very nature of their coal seam gas (CSG) operations. This is because the Permian coal seams containing the valued hydrocarbon gases lie below the aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin (the GAB), which consist of water-saturated rock and other sedimentary strata. These latter were laid down in the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic geological periods, 65 to 225 million years ago.

Santos has to bore through the (younger and shallower) sub-artesian and artesian aquifers in order to reach the (older and deeper) coal seam gas bearing Permian-age strata. This water-over-gas situation creates a number of problems: more or less equal to the number of wells (according to one estimate, about 40,000 at peak production of CSG.)

Operators like Santos know damn well that it costs them nothing to issue assurances that nothing can go wrong, and that once the gas is extracted,the future can either look after itself or go hang. But it has a public-relations nightmare on its hands. Above all, it has to convince an ever-increasing number of sceptics that its gas extraction processes are safe, and that no significant amount of groundwater could possibly be contaminated, either during or after CSG extraction.

Experience overseas is solidly against any such assurances

VETDEN
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 13:06

See the two unsettling documentaries GASLAND & GASLAND II for the living nightmare that is GSC in America. You may never sleep again if fracking is coming to your town. And if any community has doubts on this critical issue - critical to their health, the future of their communities - grab DVD's of either for town hall showings. You don't need 'Nightmare On Elm Street' to scare the BeJesus out of people. 'Freddy' is down there beneath their feet, just itching to come a-visting!

 

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Barney
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 13:49

I have just sold my Santos shares (not a lot mind you). I have regarded Santos as a good Australian company, careful with its reputation. But it seems that neither Santos nor anyone else knows enough about safely extracting coal seam gas. The company's shares are in a downward trend and might further decline as a result of coal seam gas problems.

It is interesting to see the EPA covering up for Santos. I worked for the NSW Government and saw how the bureaucracy operates. First of all, the Yes men float to the top. Then they try to soften up any regulatory action in regard to companies. And especially if they think that the Minister will be unhappy with a prosecution or other action. Something that starts as a load of shit at the lower bureaucratic/regulatory level, becomes a truckload of valuable fertiliser by the time it reaches the top.

 

Future Energy
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 15:43

What a misleading article. You obviously have not read the EPA report and have just re hashed your story from other misleading articles. You should read the short report released by government on facts about the Pilliga leaking pond  http://www.csg.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/41535/FactSheet.pdf  One of the interesting statements is "These are all naturally occurring elements in the surrounding soil and groundwater. Importantly, testing did not detect Uranium in the pond’s water. However, Uranium was detected in the natural soils on the site. This indicates that the naturally occurring Uranium in the soil is the source of the elevated concentrations of Uranium in the groundwater"

Samatha Watson
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 16:10

Thanks for the link to the report future energy. The report goes on to say "it is suspected that the leaking water mobilised the elements and moved them into the groundwater". IE. Had there been no pond, the groundwater would not not be contaiminated with uranium.

$1500 is a criminally paltry sum to fined for contaiminating groundwater. :(

O. Puhleez
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 20:14

Future Energy:

How can Santos drill up to 40,000 wells (see my post above) through the aquifer to get to the CSG and be so bloody blase (pronounced 'blahzay' or 'blahsay') about cross contamination? To the best knowledge of geologists, the aquifers ABOVE the coal seams to be fracked have been sealed off by impervious strata for 65-225 million years. The aquifers will have to be preserved intact and functioning as the huge sealed uncontaminated reservoirs that they are for at least as long as human beings are around on the surface of this continent.

So how do you drill a bore hole through the aquifer, and seal it against cross-contamination forever? Not until the gas is recovered, which if they are typical miners, will be the terms Santos thinks in, but for hundreds of thousands, if not millions and tens of millions of years? 

Please do not suggest that steel bore pipe set in concrete (the present assurance) will be around for more than 100 years. How many 100 year-old-plus Portland cement-based structures do you know of in the modern world? Steel casings of artesian and sub-artesian bores do not last more than 100 years after the bore is sunk and cased, given the corrosive nature of inland bore water. I know that from first-hand experience on the Western Plains, where I live.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Barney
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 20:51

O Puleez

You make a good point. What would be the ultimate result of corrosion of the pipe and casing? In order to release the coal seam gas, the company needs to reduce the water pressure in the coal seam. That might mean that after the gas is extracted and the pipes corrode, the water from the upper aquifers would be drawn downward into the coal seams. Alternatively some sort of equilibrium might be established where the contaminated water below would not mix very much with the good water above. Until you start pumping the good water and disturb the equilibrium. The whole system needs researching by independent expert hydrologists. I am a geologist and I couldn't predict the outcome. I suspect no-one else knows what will happen.

fightmumma
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 23:09

The coal mine fire in Victoria is a case for warning about how well companies meet their responsibilities to locals, to pollution, to safety and good health - leaving mines in danger or fires and not doing the right thing by rehabilitating the land or taking the best measures to keep the site safe all into the future.  Who will be looking after those sites in 50 years?  When they are no longer wanted/needed?  Who looks after them if the company goes bust?

dracohouston
Posted Friday, March 21, 2014 - 04:49

"That problems will keep recurring follows from the very nature of their coal seam gas (CSG) operations. This is because the Permian coal seams containing the valued hydrocarbon gases lie below the aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin (the GAB), which consist of water-saturated rock and other sedimentary strata. These latter were laid down in the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic geological periods, 65 to 225 million years ago."

There's something poetic about using the remains of the permian mass extinction like this.

Future Energy
Posted Friday, March 21, 2014 - 12:42

O Puleez & Barney

Your comments about rusting well casings and deteriorating cement may seem logical, however they are not engineering fact. Yes the steel casing will rust over a very long time in an oxygen free environment. But what happens when it rusts? It expands. Every bore hole is filled with cement when de commissioned. This coupled with the lateral ground pressures which are squeezing the bore hole continuously and making it less and less likely to transmit vertically near the bore hole. In short the bore hole (cement & casing) is and remains a better seal than the surrounding strata over the eons of time. There have already been some 70,000 boreholes drilled in NSW alone, most with very lax standards of completion. The relatively small number of CSG wells proposed to be drilled (maybe couple of thousand) over the next 25 or so years would all be completed to the highest engineering standards and under the most strict regulation and monitoring. Can't say that for all the other bore holes being drilled every day.

O. Puhleez
Posted Friday, March 21, 2014 - 23:02

Barney:

Good points.

The coal seam consists of a mix of organics, which tend whatever their molecular masses, to be less dense than water. The gaseous component, ie when at standard temperature and pressure (or STP) is pronouncedly so. So I would expect that a mixture of naturally occuring organic compounds, plus the fracking chemicals, to move increasingly over time from the coal seam upwards into the aquifer, through 40,000 or so bore hole 'chimneys'. 

Santos says "Fracturing cannot cause groundwater to leak into the coal seam as only the specific coal seam itself is fractured." This is a fudge. It is the drilling down through the aquifer to the coal seam below which is the main threat to groundwater; not the fracking per se horizontally in the seam.

They also say: "The fracture is not able to grow up to the shallow aquifers or to the surface." That's OK. One would not expect the fractures in the coal seam to necessarily go beyond the coal seam. It is the 40,000 or so vertical bore holes into it that are my main concern.

Another fudge from Santos:

"Materials used in the fracturing process include around 99% water and a proppant, such as beach sand, as well as around 1% of a range of compounds in minute quantities, which assist in carrying and dispersing the sand in the coal seam. The compounds are not specific to the CSG industry and have many common uses such as in swimming pools, toothpaste, baked goods, ice cream, food additives, detergents and soap.

"As part of the process, the beach sand remains in the coal seam while the vast majority of the liquid, including chemicals, is recovered to ensure it does not impede the gas flow."

I should imagine that they have to order beach sand to the site by the truckload. So 1% of a truckload is a fair bit, and 1% of 100 truckloads is a truckload. The chemicals used are not all benign household cleansers and air fresheners either. After all, their purpose is to free up hydrocarbons so that they will move to the bases of the gas wells. Experience overseas has been a nightmare for those who rely on the groundwater for their water supply. (Our own household supply is about 95% bore water.)

The clearly desired effect of these frackers' websites is the assurance of water users that their supplies not only will not, but can not be contaminated by released coal gas and/or fracking chemicals. Like the nuclear power and tobacco industries before them, assuring people that nothing can possibly go wrong goes with the territory, and is an essential part of their PR operation and management of public opinion.

And all the above completely leaves out the global warming effect of methane releases and the carbon dioxide produced when the CSG is burnt.

 

O. Puhleez
Posted Friday, March 21, 2014 - 23:08

Future Energy:

My apologies. I posted my last without having read your last. (I left it sitting in the comment window while I dealt with other matters.)

I will return to the points you raise tomorrow.

O. Puhleez
Posted Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 15:39

Future Energy:

“Your comments about rusting well casings and deteriorating cement may seem logical, however they are not engineering fact. Yes the steel casing will rust over a very long time in an oxygen free environment. But what happens when it rusts? It expands.”

You appear to me to be in agreement that re-sealing the aquifer after the CSG extraction is of first order importance; not just for a “very long time”, or even for a ‘very very very long time’, but for as far into the future as we can see back into the past of the strata concerned. Essentially, that means forever; millions of years into the future. I have serious doubts that the short-term thinking of miners allows for that. Naturally, their top priority appears to be extracting the valuables as quickly as possible, while at the same time doing whatever is necessary to dismiss objections, and to see off those who raise them.

“Every bore hole is filled with cement when de commissioned. This coupled with the lateral ground pressures which are squeezing the bore hole continuously and making it less and less likely to transmit vertically near the bore hole.”

Thus you agree that vertical transmission (either gas upwards or water downwards) is undesirable. The lateral pressure will tend to restrict movement either way in the bore hole, but only to the extent to which the solid material in it (a cylindrical plug of concrete inside a pipe of steel) is deformable, like a rubber hose filled with a porous sponge rubber. Later on the same will need to be true of the concrete inside a pipe of complete rust.

“In short the bore hole (cement & casing) is and remains a better seal than the surrounding strata over the eons of time.”

While you may have been using the word in a figurative sense, an eon is the largest division of geological time, to be measured in hundreds of millions of years. This is only appropriate, as the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) aquifers, and the fresh water they contain, have been naturally sealed for something like those hundreds of millions of years. The natural sealing is due to shale layers: ie layers of the most water-tight sedimentary rock around, and far better than concrete or Portland cement. But you are right to think in such terms. The re-sealing after CSG extraction has to last not just for centennia (hundreds of years) or millenia (thousands of years) but for gigalennia (millions of years), and moreover for perhaps hundreds of gigalennia.

Long, long, long after the last whiff of coal seam gas has been extracted from the strata below, those aquifers will have to still be around, and in their present high-quality condition, as reservoirs of fresh water. Many inland cities (eg Dubbo NSW), towns (eg Gilgandra NSW) and settlements will continue to depend on them, as well as cockies like me.

 “There have already been some 70,000 boreholes drilled in NSW alone, most with very lax standards of completion. The relatively small number of CSG wells proposed to be drilled (maybe couple of thousand) over the next 25 or so years would all be completed to the highest engineering standards and under the most strict regulation and monitoring. Can't say that for all the other bore holes being drilled every day.”

There is both a fudge and a pea-and-thimble trick involved here, and I cannot believe that someone of your obvious intelligence would not be aware of it. The ’70,000 boreholes’ you are referring to can only be artesian and sub-artesian water bores, (not gas bores) whose drillers were only interested in getting down to the water-bearing strata, which everywhere lie well above the gas-bearing coal seams. Even when poorly drilled, cased and sealed, disused water bores remain simply as vertical holes in the rock strata up which water has risen to whatever level, best capped off at the top to keep small animals from falling in: the only likely source of water contamination.

If cased in steel, their casings will only last around 50-100 years before breaking open due to rust. Unless those bores are re-cased in something a bit more durable (like say, ABS plastic) they will eventually deteriorate so far that they will need a complete re-drill before such re-casing can happen.

Exhausted and abandoned gas wells have to be something else again. Cement and concrete are by their very nature relatively porous to water, which is why so many problems arise with concrete pools, septic tanks, water tanks, reservoirs and the like. Cement is an artificial sedimentary rock, (roughly equal to sandstone) and the Portland cement binding the sand grains together reacts very slowly with carbonate ions in ground water (carbonation) to form calcium carbonate: essentially limestone. The porosity of the latter steadily increases as groundwater percolates in, which is why limestone caves form, and if you ask me, why Portland cement and concrete only last a geological instant after setting.

So I don’t have much faith in cement or concrete sealing a bore for even 1% of 1% of 1% of an eon of time.

DrGideonPolya
Posted Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 16:02

Excellent article by Naomi Hogan. However pollution of aquifers is just ONE result  of the overall problem - neoliberal presstitute-sanctioned corporate pollution of the environment as a whole for private profit, and most notably pollution FOR FREE of the one common  atmosphere and ocean of all countries.

The climate criminal, Lib-Lab (Liberal-Laboral, Coaltion and Labor) politicians and presstitutes allow this pollution to occur free of charge - but the true cost adds up and will be visited upon Future Generations as a gigantic, mounting Carbon Debt.

The continuing illegal use of the one common atmosphere and one common ocean of all nations and all peoples as  a repository for carbon burning pollutants - notably CO2 and other greenhouse  gases (GHGs) - constitutes illegal theft and depraved indifference  that already kills about 5 million people annually, threatens to kill 10 billion people this century in a worsening climate genocide, threatens the Biosphere as well as Humanity, and  illegally imposes a remorselessly increasing Carbon Debt on future generations through a process of Intergenerational Injustice, Intergenerational Inequity, Climate Injustice  and Climate Criminality.

Thanks to climate criminals  the Carbon Debt cost for future generations to restore a safe planet for  all peoples and all species - by reducing atmospheric CO2 concentration from the current dangerous and deadly 400 ppm CO2 to the previous safe 300 ppm CO2 maximum for the pre-Industrial Revolution last 1 million years (see "300.org - return atmosphere to 300 ppm CO2": https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/300-org---return-atmosphere-co2-to-300-ppm ) - is now estimated to be $192 trillion and increasing by about $10 trillion each year (see Climate Justice & Intergenerational Equity (2014): https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/climate-justice ).

Everyone needs to ask themsleves and others "What did I/you do in the War on Terra?" As in Borodin's opera "Prince Igor", defeat is not acceptable.

Young people now facing a Carbon Debt of about $200 trillion increasing at 5% per year  - in all, 2.5 times the world's annual GDP - should have zero tolerance for the climate criminal Lib-Labs: they should (a) inform everyoine they can,  (b) vote 1 Green and put the Coalition last , and (c) urge and apply Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all climate criminal people, politicians, presstitutes , companies and corporations complicit in the worsenning climate crisis  (see   “100% renewable energy by 2020”: https://sites.google.com/site/100renewableenergyby2020/ .;  “Cut carbon emissions 80% by 2020”: https://sites.google.com/site/cutcarbonemissions80by2020/ ; “Divest from fossil fuels”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/divest-from-fossil-fuels ; “Are we doomed? Too late to save earth?", 300.org: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/are-we-doomed ; and Gideon Polya, “2011 Climate Change Course”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/2011-climate-change-course  ).

 

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Tim Macknay
Posted Monday, March 24, 2014 - 15:05

Samatha Watson

 

$1500 is a criminally paltry sum to fined for contaminating groundwater. :(

I agree the fine amount is paltry. But the real penalty is the upwards of $10 million Santos will need to spend to rehabilitate the site. The cleanup costs always dramatically outweigh the fines in these kinds of cases, even where the fines are substantial.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Tim Macknay
Posted Monday, March 24, 2014 - 19:12

O. Puhleez

The re-sealing after CSG extraction has to last not just for centennia (hundreds of years) or millenia (thousands of years) but for gigalennia (millions of years), and moreover for perhaps hundreds of gigalennia.

It's fun making up new words. But... shouldn't "millions of years" be "megalennia"? If you're going by the standard terminology, then a "gigallenium" would be a billion years, rather than a million. Just sayin'. ;)

O. Puhleez
Posted Monday, March 24, 2014 - 21:02

Tim:

Yes, you are right. It should be megalennia. Google centennia, millennia and gigalennia, and you get the words defined and used. But megalennia nothing.

I thus claim neither originality nor priority there. It is in the scheme of things.

In addition to the rest of it: concrete and cement are neither water-tight nor gas-tight. Particularly not gas-tight.

Both Santos and the O'Farrell government egging it on, none the less should both be thinking in the ultra long term. And if their short-term thinking and slack order of priorities prevail, then there should be a hefty mining tax right now to pay for the ongoing restoration work. Because it will not be enough for Santos to fill the bore holes with cement and then walk away for as long as they like. As the cement filler deteriorates, and gas leaks upwards into the aquifer or water downwards out of it into the shattered coal seams below, each well will have to be re-drilled and re-filled. Say once every 100 years. And all too likely going on for millennia, megalennia and gigalennia. 

Someone will have to pay, and probably it will be the descendants of the present generation of taxpayers. The descendants of the present Santos mob will probably by then be enjoying life in the Caribbean, St Moritz, or anywhere well away from the polluted and buggered Great Artesian Basin

O. Puhleez
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 22:13

Some American experience:

In 2012 Ingraffea and colleagues read through 16,017 inspection reports filed over the last four years. What they found was a significant and steady rate of methane leaks at the wellbore or what is known in industry jargon as "bubbling in the cellar."

In 2010, 111 of 1,609 wells drilled and fracked failed and leaked. That's a 6.9 per cent rate of failure. In 2012, 67 out of 1,014 wells leaked -- a seven per cent rate of failure.

"We looked at violations and not comments," adds Ingraffea. Quite often inspectors would note that a well was leaking like a sieve but that violation was pending. As a consequence the seven per cent figure represents a dramatic underestimate of methane leaks, says Ingraffea.

Moreover, the seven per cent figure only includes leaks at the wellhead. It does not include leaks that sprouted up in stream beds, water wells, or ponds often 2,000 feet away from the well site after steady fracking operations.

http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/01/09/Leaky-Fracked-Wells/

adambrereton
Posted Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 12:42

Dear Readers: We received a reply from Santos, which I've reproduced as-is below.

Best,

Adam Brereton
Associate Editor


NSW Natural Gas – Facts not Fear 

 
In relation to the article posted on New Matilda by Naomi Hogan - ‘Santos Can’t Bury The Truth About CSG Any Longer’ on March 19 - I would like to set out the facts regarding the groundwater underlying a pond that is being decommissioned at our operations near Narrabri in NSW. 
 
The NSW government and the EPA found the leak was “small, localised and contained” and there was no harm to either humans or animals. Details of their findings can be found on their website 
 
http://www.resources.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/509636/FactSheet.pdf.
 
Contrary to suggestions in the article, the leak did not affect any aquifer used to water cattle. The NSW Government confirmed this stating that “there is no risk to private bores”. It also confirmed that the groundwater is not connected to any aquifers, “especially those which supply water for irrigation, livestock or human consumption”. 
 
Suggestions that Santos has been less than forthcoming about this issue are also incorrect. Santos has been clear about the fact that certain facilities constructed by the previous owner did not meet our high operating standards. After we took over the Narrabri operations and became aware of the issues, we decided to shut down the water treatment facilities and promptly installed monitoring wells.
 
In addition to this, a year ago we proactively reported elevated levels of trace elements in localised groundwater underneath the holding pond, which had been constructed by the previous operator. Santos also proactively reported the story to the local newspaper – the Narrabri Courier – who reported on the incident to the local community on 29 August 2013. 
 
Santos did receive a $1,500 fine from the EPA as a result of what we reported – a fine reflecting the nature of the environmental impact, our responsible reporting and the remedial actions we are undertaking. The reality is far from what some are trying to convince the community. The fact is that neither the environment, people nor livestock are at risk. The fact is that it is Santos who has acted transparently and responsibly in addressing this matter – an approach that we will continue as we seek to supply New South Wales with the gas it needs.
 
Damon Hunt 
 
Group Executive, Public Affairs - Santos Ltd
26 March 2014