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AGL’s Gloucester ‘Produced Water’ Irrigation Trial
“A Sham and a Farce!”


Whilst AGL executives are popping champagne corks and patting themselves on the back celebrating the supposed success of a minor irrigation trial to grow triticale (a wheat/ Rye crop used for livestock feed) at the Tiedman Farm in Gloucester using ‘produced water’, pumped from unconventional coal seam methane gas wells, and stored in large holding dams, the key question which AGL has not explained is:

“Where did all the salt go?”

‘Produced Water’ can be toxic, containing Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, Fluoride, Formaldehyde, Lead, Mercury, Nickel, just to name a few, and usually very high in salt content

The disposal of the ‘produced water’ and the salt are the two most significant conjunctive albatrosses that hang around the neck of the CSG Industry. No matter how hard they try and squirm they just cannot escape the consequences of these substances, and no matter what cosmetic solutions they come up with, ultimately we the people will either have to subsidise or we will have to pay for the consequences of their exploitation and profiteering of unconventional coal seam methane gas extraction in Gloucester.

Where did all the salt go?

You can make any ‘trial’ appear successful if you have the resources and the multi-million dollar financial backing, and better still, when you don’t really have to conduct the ‘trial’ through a scientific nor transparent process and you don’t even have to publish any scientific evidence based results! AGL has not published any results of the trial!

The critical question is how long can AGL keep growing a crop on that salt laden land and at what cost? The economics just don’t stack up, let alone the environmental consequences!

In our research we have found that a number of companies in the United States and indeed in other countries have tried this scam, but no-one can make it work cost effectively.

In order to counterbalance the salt, AGL would have to restructure the soil characteristics which according to independent geo-technical engineer, Professor Philip Pells, “ would mean adding many hundreds of tonnes of compost, lime (calcium carbonate), gypsum (calcium sulphate) and zeolite minerals (which enhances the water retention quality of soils)''.

Irrigation water quality has a profound effect on soil fertility and chemical properties, especially when poor-quality irrigation water is used. Soil chemistry and irrigation water quality (chemistry) are closely related and both must be monitored because all elements and chemicals will eventually end up in the soil, which will eventually leach out into our rivers.

But where is the documented, evidence-based literature – AGL has not publicly released anything?

Where are the field monitoring results?

Frequent monitoring of water quality, soil fertility/chemical conditions and tissue nutrient status becomes an important tool for gaining the scientific information required to make informed science-based management decisions.

It is widely accepted that the sophisticated intricacies of irrigation water management are becoming more complex and whole ecosystems-oriented science-based review of irrigation water quality is paramount.

In the long term, this charade is not sustainable neither from an economic nor an agricultural perspective – it just can’t work as the accumulation of salt impacts on the mineral balance in the soil, destroying; the health of a biologically active living soil; the life and health of the millions of living microorganisms that live in the soil, the insects and the earthworms all die or leave.

AGL has admitted that they only produced 130 silage bales, which demonstrates that this is not an economic solution. So the issue just boils down to how can AGL expediently dispose of the salt from “produced water” without having to pay for the proper treatment and disposal.

In the traditions of the gold rush era of the wild west they have dragged out the flim flam man; the snake oils salesman, to peddle the magic elixir that will cure all ills; a dilution of produced water with pure fresh water to irrigate crops; a cosmetic solution that will ultimately ensure that the community will subsidise the cost of disposing all the produced water and the salt.

AGL has a current licence that now entitles them to draw 60 megalitres of water for irrigation from the Avon River.

During Stage One of its Gloucester Gas Project, AGL expects to extract between 500 and 700 megalitres of ‘produced water’ per year. If this ‘produced water’ is to be blended with fresh water and used in irrigation based on the current ratio of 3:1 then AGL will need to draw up to 2100 megalitres of fresh water from the Avon or one of the other nearby rivers to dilute the ‘produced water’. This will have catastrophic consequences on the availability of our water supply, and then all this polluted salt water will end up in our river systems.

Where did all the salt go?

Any good farmer knows and understands about Salinity. There are hundreds of books and studies published on the subject. Salinity is a major problem in Australia, with tens of millions of dollars thrown at the problem by governments each year, yet AGL wants to irrigate the Tiedman farm with salt water that will eventually end up in the Manning River.

When you irrigate with salty water no matter how much you dilute the water, the salt will either stay in the ground and build up or it will leach back into the water ways. Even if the salt stays in the ground it will eventually build up to a level at which point it will leach back into the waterways. In this case the Avon River, which then will feed into the Manning River. The more you irrigate and the more water you use the greater the certainty that the salt will find its way into our pristine waterways. Earlier this year the Manning River Times ran front page articles heralding the quality of our fresh water. AGL will put our water quality and eventually the availability of fresh water at risk if they intend to disperse 2500 tonnes of salt per year (Stage 1) using this method.

If the Government approves a licence for full production to 330 wells then you can triple the amount of salt and triple the consequences.

Where did all the salt go?

AGL has acknowledged that the salt content in the Avon River is only 200ppm (parts per million) and they have also admitted that the salt content in ‘produced water’ from unconventional coal seam methane gas wells is 4000ppm, 20 times greater! The salt content from produced water could be even higher and the salt level in the Avon River could even be lower depending on the climate and the season.

AGL has spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars on this trial. Yet there has been no real scientific evidence made public. It’s very easy to flash around a few pictures of green triticale, but for a trial of such environmental and economic consequence there should have been independent oversight, and participation from agencies such as the EPA.

Where did all the salt go?

Where is the scientific documented evidence?

This trial lacks scientific credibility. To be an environmentally sustainable solution their needs to be a great deal of creditable scientific evidence made publicly available. This has not happened.

AGL has bought very expensive state of the art irrigation equipment. They have dumped a great deal of money on fertilisers, chemicals, and other inputs to create the image of success, but there is no documented material made public about the trial. Nor have they given us any information on the irrigation process, such as:

•How often did they irrigate with the ‘produced water’?
•How much produced water was used in irrigation?
•The actual salt content of the produced water used in irrigation?
•How much clean water was used and where did it come from?
•Did they also irrigate with just clean water?
•What fertilisers and chemicals did they use?

Where did, the salt go?

For all the money that they have spent on this trial, the yield has been less than spectacular for a crop of triticale, a crop which was deliberately selected as it was seen to be salt tolerant.

AGL has not published any scientific nor evidenced based information on the nutritional content of the triticale. Is it any good? This could have been easily achieved through the testing of the nutritional value of the triticale. You can grow a salty crop but does it have any nutritional value?

History records that civilization’s have developed, thrived and died on the availability of water.

In biblical times, salting the earth, or sowing with salt, is the ritual of spreading salt on conquered cities to symbolize a curse on its re-inhabitation, in The Book of Judges (9:45), ‘Abimelech, the judge of the Israelites sowed his own capital Shechem with salt (ca. 1050 BC) after quelling a revolt’.

Now in this 21st Century it seems the NSW Government views the people of the Gloucester and Manning Valleys as the enemy and it is quite prepared to condemn our communities to the curse of the salt; allowing AGL to salt the land around the Tiedman Farm and the Avon River, and to allow AGL to have a cheap solution to dispose of it’s ‘produced water’ and the salt. A solution that will ultimately harm the land, our waterways, our supplies of freshwater, so that there will be nothing left for future generations, and the indecency of it all is that we, the people, will have to pay for the consequences and the remediation (if its at all possible).

Where has all the salt gone?

Where are the In-field soil salinity (ECe) measurements?

Where are the In-field irrigation water salinity (ECw) measurements?

Where are the Leachate / drainage water salinity (ECw) measurements?

Where are the In-field irrigation water test for suspended solids results?

Where are the In-field sodicity testing of soil and irrigation water results?

Where are the Bulk soil electrical conductivity testing results?

Where are the Mobile Electromagnetic Induction (EM) Sensors testing results?


AGL is really desperate to find and hang onto anything that may help them to avoid scrutiny over the disposal of ‘produced water and the salt’, and to reduce the political pressure and limit intervention. Clearly, they need to arm the State politicians and bureaucrats with anything that may deflect public criticism from the consequences of unconventional coal seam methane gas extraction.

We have just been through a period drought; streams and creeks dried up, we have had water shortages, many people on the land have had to buy in water, but AGL wants to be entitled to draw up to 2100 megalitres of water from the Avon River to dilute produced water to irrigate a miserable, uneconomic, poor yielding crop of triticale.

Where is the common sense in all this? Where is the sense in wasting precious good water for bad! Why do we have to subsidise AGL’s costs. There is no question that they will not be paying full price for this water!

Its interesting to note that since AGL announced the results of this ‘trial” a number of industry publications related to the mining and extractive industries have not only taken up the story, but they have significantly embellished the result, and the outcome, - and so a myth becomes a legend!

Clearly the intention of NSW Government and the Industry is to project the image of a ‘natural (and safe) process’ and deflect from the universally accepted view that unconventional coal seam methane gas extraction requires the application of the dangerous and destructive process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking); and away from a series of dangerous consequences to ground water, aquifers, rivers, land, the environment and human and animal health.

So AGL, where did all the salt go?

 

“I am very disappointed that a once proud and highly reputable company ‘drawing on over 175 years of experience’ has degenerated to such a shallow level as to resort to a tawdry and clumsy stunt in an effort to confuse and deflect genuine community concern over the consequences of the destructive practices of harvesting unconventional coal seam methane gas." Chairman of the Manning Alliance, Mr Peter Epov said.

People should not be fooled! Yet again, this trial is just another rather lavishly funded stunt, a three ringed circus, with it’s own magic show featuring the “disappearing salt”, it’s just all highly expensive smoke and mirrors funded by AGL shareholders. Yet the costs of this charade will ultimately be added on to the price of the gas and passed on to the people of NSW, if the NSW Government continues to allow this catastrophic Gloucester gas field to be harvested.

Water – some facts!

Water is the most basic of resources. All throughout history civilizations have grown or withered and died depending on its availability. History is now repeating itself. The world’s potable water supplies are notably shrinking! Australia is the driest continent in the world!

Global water reserves

To properly understand the seriousness of this situation a few quick facts:

•Sea water comprises of 96.5% of the total global water reserves. (average 34,486 ppm total soluble salts)
•Total fresh water reserves are 2.5% (Gleick 1993)
•Ground water makes up 1.7% of total global water supply, which includes 55% saline and 45% freshwater.
•A total of 30.1% of freshwater comes from ground water.
•Lake water reserves are (0.013% of total water resources – include 0.006% saline and 0.007% freshwater.
•Swamp water (0.0008%)
•River flows (0.0002%)
•Glaciers and permanent snow cover (1.74%)
•Ground ice/permafrost (0.022%) account for the remaining global reserves.
•Global demand for fresh potable water (total reserves of 3.265% of total water reserves) is doubling every 20 years (Gleick, 1993)

A critically valuable resource.

Between 1978 and 2008 (30 years) the population of the US has increased by 52% but the total water use has increased by 300%

Renewable water resources per person decreased by 50% between 1960 and 1998 in the United States.

A further 50% reduction is projected by 2025.

By 2000 all US communities have experienced water shortages in the form of water rationing or short term cutoffs.
________________________________________

The Manning Alliance Inc.

“Working Strategically with the Community to Prevent Coal Seam Gas Drilling in our Valley.”

Information Centre: 89 Isabella St Wingham. PO Box 470 Taree NSW 2430. Project Blue Hotline (02) 65505853

Patron: Di Morrissey


 

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