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Coal Seam Gas


The Gloucester Milk Experiment

Is Fracking Produced Water Safe in Our Milk?

Despite bans in the USA and New Zealand on fracking produced water having contact with cattle, AGL's irrigation trial at Gloucester NSW is providing fodder grown with fracking waste water to feed dairy and beef cattle.

The gas company is self assessing the experiment, reporting six months later, even though the fodder is being used in the human food chain. AGL has fallen foul of the EPA for failing to report at regular intervals already.

In June 2013, New Zealand dairy cooperative Fonterra vowed to no longer accept milk from from dairy suppliers where fracking waste has been spread.

In Pennsylvania, USA, cattle that came in contact with natural gas (methane) drilling wastewater were quarantined. The US Department of Agriculture said "drilling wastewater has high salinity levels, but it also contains dangerous chemicals and metals."

On 11 December 2013 Claire Miller, Manager, Policy Strategy, Dairy Australia returned our call and denied that any fodder had been grown with frack water (contrary to AGL's press releases). Ms Miller repeatedly said "if there are any issues, take it up with the EPA and the regulatory authorities". She did not seem happy to be answering questions about the possible contamination of milk.


Photo of Devondale gas/dairy farmer Mark Harris' farm, 2013-12-13, Ian Barbour.
Devondale deny that Mark Harris is one of their famers.

Environmentalist of the Year, Drew Hutton has raised concerns about the Gloucester milk experiment.

"An AGL report on an irrigation trial at Gloucester using CSG water fails to report concentrations and volumes of radioactive, heavy metal and other contaminants including arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobolt, lead, lithium, mercury, nickel, selenium, radium 226, radium 228, uranium 238, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and other volatile organic compounds" .

"Not only have concerns of the NSW EPA about the poor quality of irrigation water drawn from coal seams been ignored, the government has not even required the company to list the full range of contaminants recommended under the national guideline."

On 2 December 2013, AGL replied "the chemicals listed by the Alliance were naturally occurring" though they failed to mention that these chemicals were both being brought up and added to the gas well during the drilling process.

Brushing aside any concern that contaminated milk could be on the supermarket shelves already, AGL said:

"These are guidelines not regulations. However, we are bound by and comply with, our water management plan which was approved by the NSW Office of Coal Seam Gas."



"The code is more what you call guidelines than actual rules"

AGL misrepresents LTG article & seeks to confuse the issue

  The Lock The Gate article referred to testing on-site soil directly irrigated with CSG water (as reported in Fodder King report, Aug 2013).

 http://www.agl.com.au/~/media/AGL/About%20AGL/Documents/How%20We%20Source%20Energy/CSG%20Community%20News/Gloucester/Community%20Updates/2013/September/FK%20AGL%20DRE%20Rpt%202_Final_LowRes.pdf

The AGL response in the Gloucester Advocate is about water bodies at various distances away from the irrigated soil (refers to Parsons Brinkerhoff report, Aug 2013, i.e. measuring indirect contamination).

http://www.agl.com.au/~/media/AGL/About%20AGL/Documents/How%20We%20Source%20Energy/CSG%20Community%20News/Gloucester/Community%20Updates/2013/September/2162406F%20WAT%20RPT%207408%20FINAL_LowRes.pdf 

Source of water unclear - no audit trail

  There is no clear audit trail to confirm whether the water source has come from fractured or unfractured coal seams. 

Limited reporting re contaminants

It is clear from Tables 2.7, 3.1, 4.1 & 5.1 in the Parsons Brinkerhoff report that there has been no testing for a range of contaminants normally found in CSG water and which are of concern for irrigation of crops.

For instance, the analytical suite (Table 2.7) does not include Chromium, Cyanide or radioactive contaminants such as Uranium or Radium.

If this produce is to be fed to beef cattle or milking cows, there is a high element of risk with contaminated fodder and contaminants ending up in human food. AGL would be negligent not to test for these relevant contaminants.

The ANZECC guide should be used as a starting point, but remembering that the guidelines were written for irrigation water in 2000 - i.e. prior to CSG and fracking.

Time period of trial is limited

  The AGL trial (Stage 1A area) began in April 2013. Thus only a short period of time for build-up of contaminants in soil - we would expect to see greater concentrations over a 12 month (or longer-term) irrigation trial. It is less likely we'd detect elevated contaminants in nearby water bodies at this stage, as there's been little time for soil leaching processes or overland flow from storm events.

  However, looking at the seepages bores, we find quite revealing information. The seepage bores (which are presumably the closest water monitoring sites to the soil being irrigated) are, at this early stage, detecting changes in salinity (refer to p16).

http://www.agl.com.au/~/media/AGL/About%20AGL/Documents/How%20We%20Source%20Energy/CSG%20Community%20News/Gloucester/Community%20Updates/2013/September/2162406F%20WAT%20RPT%207408%20FINAL_LowRes.pdf

Limitations of Parsons Brinkerhoff report

  The report is limited to the scope set by AGL. Parsons Brinkerhoff assumes no responsibility, and tells the reader to make their own enquiries (see p 32).
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AGL Upstream Investments Pty Ltd
Tiedman Irrigation Trial - August 2013 Water
Compliance Report
Gloucester Gas Project
21 August 2013
By Parsons Brinckerhoff



The US Department of Agriculture article mentions "the main element of concern is the heavy metal strontium, which can be toxic to humans, especially in growing children."

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The 22 November 2013 UNSW report to the NSW Chief Scientist showing the pH level and Impurities in the AGL Produced Water are NOT STATED ...



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Diary Australia and Devondale were contacted for comment.

Devondale denied that Mark Harris was one of their farmers, even though he has one of their supplier signs on his gate. When told that, Devondale said they have someone phone me back "officially" ... we're still waiting for that call.

On 11 December 2013 Claire Miller, Manager, Policy Strategy, Dairy Australia returned our call, said she had spoken to dairy farmer Mark Harris, denied that any fodder had been grown with frack water (contrary to AGL's press releases) and said "if there are any issues, take it up with the EPA and the regulatory authorities". She did not seem happy to be answering questions about the possible contamination of milk.
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New South Wales Farmers Associations Dairy Committee

In his submission to the 2011 NSW Parliament Inquiry into Coal Seam Gas, Patrick Neal, Member, New South Wales Farmers Associations Dairy Committee, said under oath:

"There is simply no way for us to be confident that pollutants going to and from the coal seam will not make their way into the water and in turn into our livestock and the food chain."

"This area is perfect for dairying. It has the rainfall to grow the feed we require, the infrastructure and enough producers around to sustain the processing plants and the services we need to run our business."

"I have serious doubts about whether we can operate alongside the coal seam gas industry."

"I guess I focused before on drinking water for stock but there is also irrigation. When I use chemical fertilisers I like to reassure myself of the heavy metals in the fertilisers to make sure I am not overexposing my soil to these heavy metals.

"A big concern for me is worrying about what is in the chemicals that these people are using."

"If heavy metals are irrigated onto pastures and taken up by the grass that is then ingested by cows, or if it goes into the drinking water, then into stock via the water, and then into produce for humans, a lot of the farms will become unviable. There are regulations on how much, for example, lead or other heavy metals are allowed to be ingested by cows and then into milk."
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Call on diary farmers receiving the Tiedmans Property fodder to be tested

The Lock the Gate Alliance has accused the coal seam gas industry of failing to test for a range of contaminants that could be expected to be found in produced water from coal seams and produced water from hydraulic fracturing.

Section 4.2.6 of the National Water Quality Guidelines (ANZECC 2000) contains long-term and short-term trigger value concentrations for heavy metals and metalloids in irrigation water and Section 4.2.9 contains trigger values for the radioactive quality of irrigation water, but Lock the Gate says many of these dangerous substances are not tested for, or test results are not released publicly.

An AGL report, for example, on an irrigation trial at Gloucester using CSG water fails to report concentrations and volumes of radioactive, heavy metal and other contaminants including: arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobolt, lead, lithium, mercury, nickel, selenium, radium 226, radium 228, uranium 238, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and other volatile organic compounds.

Lock the Gate Alliance president, Drew Hutton, said this was a further sidelining of environmental regulation in New South Wales, and is putting communities at risk.

“Not only have concerns of the New South Wales EPA about the poor quality of irrigation water drawn from coal seams been ignored, the government has not even required the company to list the full range of contaminants recommended under the National Guideline," Mr Hutton said.

“Santos has done the same thing in its report on groundwater quality from the Hoskisson coal seam in the Gunnedah Basin, leaving out heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and radioactive substances.

“Why is the NSW government allowing both AGL and Santos to go ahead with work at Gloucester and in the Pilliga state forest when they are so prepared to blithely ignore environmental regulations and to keep crucial information from the people of New South Wales?” Mr Hutton said.

"Produced water is not being used directly on crops in the current AGL irrigation trial. Blended water is what is being used in the trial, and this is about three parts fresh water to one part produced water," the AGL pirate spokeswoman said.

Please note the definitions according to AGL: "produced water" is called "blended water" when diluted 1:4 - even though the amount of chemicals is still the same.

Cattle farmers and diary consumers should be concerned at the lack of data

AGL's wastewater irrigation trial report (Aug 2013) fails to address the National Water Quality Guidelines ANZECC for irrigation,  does not reference National Water Quality guidelines, and does not include a microbial count

AGL's management plan does not mention the water values for:
radioactive contaminants, radium, arsenic, cyanide, lead, radium, chromium, mercury, and uranium. p.11

Radioactive contaminants, and heavy metals can transfer into dairy cattle (body cells and milk), so can Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

Waukivory Pilot fracking fluid contains 850l Hydrochloric acid + 450l Bactericide THPS potential formaldehyde releaser AppD, p12

135 bales of fodder could threaten the whole NSW diary industry

Is it worth the risk while coal seam gas fracker AGL does their experiment?

All dairy businesses in Australia are required, since October 2008, to comply with the primary production and processing standard for dairy, contained in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (ANZFS Code).
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Mark Paterson, the Director-General, NSW Trade & Investment sent a letter to  the Sydney Morning Herald responding to an article on AGL’s irrigation trial at Gloucester. The letter is outlined below.

‘The article on AGL’s irrigation trial at Gloucester did not include the fact the issues raised by the Environment Protection Authority in its submission to my department in April 2012 were addressed before the trial was approved. All submissions were thoroughly examined and further information sought from AGL before approval was given. The EPA’s submission guided the approval conditions applied to mitigate environmental risk.’

Mark Paterson, Director-General, NSW Trade & Investment

The Sydney Morning Herald responded by renaming the EPA the Backside Protection Agency because AGL are doing their own monitoring of the Gloucester Milk Experiment - there is no independent monitoring
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Even after the New Zealand ban, a Fonterra inquiry found that 150,000 litres of milk in 14 tankers was contaminated with suspected mining waste in October 2013. Dairy farmers and the Taranaki Regional Council told Radio New Zealand they believe it was waste from fracking wells that got into Fonterra's tankers.
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In Pennsylvania, the Department of Agriculture quarantined cattle from a Tioga County farm after a number of cows came into contact with drilling wastewater from a nearby natural gas operation.

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said uncertainty over the quantity of wastewater the cattle may have consumed warranted the quarantine in order to protect the public from eating potentially contaminated beef.

“Drilling wastewater has high salinity levels, but it also contains dangerous chemicals and metals,” said Redding.

"We took this precaution in order to protect the public from consuming any of this potentially contaminated product should it be marketed for human consumption."

The US Department of Agriculture article mentions "the main element of concern is the heavy metal strontium, which can be toxic to humans, especially in growing children."

Subsequent tests of the wastewater found that it contained chloride, iron, sulfate, barium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, strontium and calcium.

Redding said the main element of concern is the heavy metal strontium, which can be toxic to humans, especially in growing children.

The metal takes a long time to pass through an animal’s system because it is preferentially deposited in bone and released in the body at varying rates, dependent on age, growth status and other factors.

The secretary also added that the quarantine will follow the recommended guidelines from the Food Animal Residue Avoidance and Depletion Program, as follows:

• Adult animals: hold from food chain for 6 months.
• Calves exposed in utero: hold from food chain for 8 months.
• Growing calves: hold from food chain for 2 years.

In response to the leak, the Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation to East Resources Inc. and required further sampling and site remediation.

DEP is evaluating the final cleanup report and is continuing its investigation of operations at the drilling site, as well as the circumstances surrounding the leaking holding pond.
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Did you know that raw coal seam gas produced water is to be renamed as "Beneficial Waste" then added to compost to spread on soil? Nugrow are proposing this in Kogan.
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Local farmers are concerned that they must pay for a water license to grow fodder, and here is a huge corporation who get their water for free, and set up business in competition.
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Locals and water experts claim there is a need for baseline studies to establish the existing quality of water before AGL undertakes more fracking.

Gloucester Council, downstream Taree Council and MidCoast Water all want these baselines studies.

Despite all this, AGL still claim they are "listening to the community"

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