| Pilliga |
Camden | Northern Rivers
| Wollongong |
Woop Woop March |
Aussies Against Fracking
GENERAL PURPOSE STANDING
COMMITTEE No. 5 27 MONDAY 31 OCTOBER 2011
ANNA KALISKA, Quality and Environmental
Impact Manager, MidCoast Water, and
ROBERT JAMES LOADSMAN, General Manager, MidCoast Water, sworn and examined:
CHAIR: Before proceeding to questions,
would either of you like to make an opening statement?
Mr LOADSMAN: I would like to make an
opening statement. MidCoast Water is the water authority responsible for the
reticulated water supply and sewerage systems in the Greater Taree, Great Lakes
and Gloucester Shire local government areas, and covers a geographical area of
over 10,000 square kilometres.
MidCoast Water has a responsibility to
deliver high quality, safe drinking water to 35,000 households and over 75,000
people in towns and villages within our area. This responsibility extends to
managing water quality at all points of the delivery path from the catchment to
the taps of our customers.
MidCoast Water strongly supports this
initiative to investigate the environmental, health, economic and social impacts
of coal seam gas mining in New South Wales, and recognises the efforts of the
Government, mining industry and other stakeholders to work together to introduce
a more balanced approach in the management of impacts from this industry's rapid
However, we believe that current regulation is not adequate to
ensure sustainable development of the coal seam gas industry in New South Wales.
Our opinion is based on recent experiences gained during assessment and approval
of the major coal seen gas operation in the Gloucester Basin.
This coal seam gas
development is located in the Manning River catchment, which is a drinking water
catchment. The Manning District Water Supply Scheme draws water from the Manning
River downstream of the Gloucester Basin.
We believe the approval process under part
3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act was not robust enough to
allow for a fair assessment of the coal seen gas project in the Gloucester Basin
and its impacts on the downstream water supply system.
MidCoast Water was not
included in the consultation process during the preliminary design stage, which
led to the approval of this project.
Representatives from a number of government
bodies were invited to the planning focus meeting setting out the requirements
of the Director General for the project's environmental assessment in July 2008,
but the need to assess the potential impacts on drinking water quality
downstream of the proposed wet weather discharge point was not raised.
Our particular concerns with the approval
are that: MidCoast Water operates a drinking water scheme that draws water from
the catchment downstream of the proposed development; the Manning District Water
Supply Scheme is a major regional water supply system; and the project approval
included provision for a river discharge.
The environmental assessment report
prepared for the project approval not only failed to consider impacts on
drinking water quality downstream of the proposed discharge, but made no mention
of the Manning District Water Supply Scheme at all.
The fact that there is no
State legislation dealing specifically with this issue is a real concern for MidCoast Water, as we believe drinking water catchments should be given special
protection status when large-scale coal seam gas projects are considered.
We are very concerned that the recently
approved project in Gloucester provided for a limited discharge into our water
supply catchment and that the decision to approve the project was given without
consideration of the impacts of coal seam gas operation on the drinking water
The assessment process has to be based on comprehensive studies and
accurate scientific models. More resources have to be committed to progress
scientific knowledge in the area of coal seam gas impacts.
scientific knowledge is developed, the precautionary principle has to be used.
Currently it appears that each project is
considered separately. There is a need to introduce measures to address
cumulative impacts of coal seam gas projects on a regional scale. In particular,
the cumulative impact on groundwater and surface water resources resulting from
multiple mining and coal seam gas developments should be considered during the
Environment, community and heritage impact assessments need to
be completed before exploration and the process of using an expression licence
should incorporate community and local government participation. It is
acknowledged that regional strategic plans are proposed to be developed.
Our concern is that Gloucester is included
in the Hunter region, which is quite different from our region.
The Gloucester region may be close to the
Hunter but it has different water catchments: the Karuah and the Manning. These
catchments are much greater remnants of biodiversity than the Hunter. We believe
that the Gloucester area is unique and should not be included in the upper
Hunter; it should be included in a region that includes Great Lakes and Greater
These areas are rich in food production, tourism and include the
Barrington Tops world heritage area. It is hoped that the information gathered
during this inquiry will assist in providing a balanced approach to the coal
seam gas debate, and that it has as its core value the protection of our
environment and our drinking water catchments.
CHAIR: Ms Kaliska, do you wish to make an
Ms KALISKA: No.
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: I asked the
councillors from Greater Taree, Great Lakes and Gloucester Shire councils about
how many water bores are sunk at the moment. Do you have any idea of the number
of water bores we are talking about?
Mr LOADSMAN: I will pass that question over
to Ms Kaliska. She is more informed on technical detail.
Ms KALISKA: Do you mean in the Manning
Valley or in Gloucester Basin?
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: I was thinking of
the whole area.
Ms KALISKA: In the Manning Valley there
will be a lot of bores.
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: In the dozens or
Ms KALISKA: Yes, I think so.
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: I tend to agree
with you that the river discharge is an issue. Do you recall what volume of
water was being talked about in that environmental impact study?
Ms KALISKA: Two megalitres per day.
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: Is MidCoast Water
or the Environmental Protection Authority capable of modelling the impact of
that? For example, the temperature of the water, the seasonality of the flow,
nutrient load or anything else that might be in the water? Is MidCoast Water
capable of doing that or do you think that the Environmental Protection
Authority should be the gatekeeper?
Ms KALISKA: We have a fair idea about that.
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: What is your view
on two megalitres per day? I thought the figure would have been higher than
Ms KALISKA: That is for stage one.
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: That is the 100
bores, is it?
Ms KALISKA: 110 bores. But the water
quality is very poor. It is extracted from very deep and it has very high
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: So it is a quality
issue for you rather than a quantity issue?
Ms KALISKA: Both. This water is very
difficult to treat. It will be a challenge for AGL to work out what to do with
that water. It is still to be done. It is not determined exactly what will
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: But they did get a
licence to do that?
Ms KALISKA: They have conditional approval
for the project. Now they have to develop a water management plan. Currently
they want to start to run some pilot projects to determine exactly what to do
with this water in this condition.
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: The produced
Ms KALISKA: Yes.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: Mr Loadsman, I
heard you early today on ABC Radio talking about the need for more research and
modelling. In the New South Wales Government's submission to this parliamentary
inquiry it talks about drinking water catchments and says "... the Sydney
Catchment Authority has developed principles to underpin decision making in
drinking water catchments". Are you familiar with those principles—there are six
of them? If so, do they adequately encapsulate the issues that MidCoast Water is
concerned about and how might they be enshrined in regulation or legislation to
ensure that they are regarded?
Mr LOADSMAN: I am not specifically aware of
those comments you are making, no.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: I will read the
first two principles:
. Protection of water quantity—Mining and coal seam gas activities must not
result in a reduction in the quantity of surface and groundwater inflows to
storages or loss of water from storages or their catchments; and
. Protection of water quality— coal seam gas activities must not result in a
reduction in the quality of surface and groundwater inflows to storages ...
If we provide those to you on notice you might be able to respond as to whether
or not you think they are appropriate in your catchment area?
Mr LOADSMAN: Certainly.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: And how they
might be best taken into account in the development of regulatory framework.
Mr LOADSMAN: I will take that on board.
CHAIR: What is the uptake from the river?
How much water do you take?
Mr LOADSMAN: We extract 11 megalitres per
year, 11 gigalitres per year from the—
CHAIR: That is 11 gigalitres per annum?
Mr LOADSMAN: Yes.
The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: I am concerned
to hear that you were not consulted prior to the stage one concept approval,
particularly with a river discharge. Will you expand on what some of the issues
are regarding water quality? The suggestion is that it is not just about
salinity but that there are other organic and inorganic compounds that can find
their way into the waste water from coal seam gas. Will you expand on what you
think some of the risks are to water quality from some of the other
Ms KALISKA: What is in the extracted water
is what is in the groundwater. So far we only have a preliminary assessment of
groundwater for this particular project. Already we can see that there is some
heavy metals and there is also some BTEX in the groundwater, but the analysis is
not detailed enough to determine exactly what is there. AGL is preparing a more
detailed groundwater assessment, but it is not yet ready yet.
The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: The Sydney
Catchment Authority recently put a submission to the Department of Planning
opposing coal seam gas development in their catchment because they could not
argue that it would have no impact—which is the first time it has done that.
There was an application for test bore holes. Would MidCoast Water consider a
submission opposing coal seam gas in drinking water catchments, as the Sydney
Catchment Authority has done?
Mr LOADSMAN: At the present time we are not
opposed to coal seam gas. Our priority is to put information forward that will
assist you people to come up with ways of protecting our water supply—that is
our main concern. There is a lot of uncertainty around the whole coal seam gas
debate and we are not comfortable that the modelling processes are scientific or
have been developed enough to give us enough information to come to that
The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE: Following up the
question asked by Mr MacDonald, the question of bore water has been put to us on
a number of occasions—I am aware you are primarily concerned with reticulated
water. It has been put to us that the drilling of water bores may also result in
interference with or contamination of aquifers and that has been given almost as
an equivalent in the drilling for coal seam gas. Can you comment on that?
Ms KALISKA: There is a difference between
drilling for water and drilling for coal seam gas because when you drill for
water it is not as deep and you are not dealing with the aquifer, which is
50,000 years old and has a different composition from the normal water you drill
to get drinking water supplies. There are no harmful or toxic chemicals in the
aquifer you drill for the drinking water supply.
The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE: Essentially would
you say there is a qualitative difference between drilling for coal seam gas and
drilling water bores?
Ms KALISKA: Yes.
The Hon. GREG DONNELLY: On page 6 of your
submission you say:
MidCoast Water strongly believes that the quality of environmental, economic and
social impact assessments should be improved including full transparency and
disclosure of technical aspects and impacts of coal and gas projects.
I take it your view is that at the moment there is not satisfactory transparency
in the process. If that is the case, how can that transparency issue be
addressed in looking at this whole issue of coal seam gas exploration and
Ms KALISKA: The consultation process should
start much earlier before the proposal is submitted and agencies such as
MidCoast Water should be involved from the very beginning of the process. All
the studies and assessments should be done more thoroughly and the community
should be involved much earlier so it can exercise its rights to participation
in the decision-making process.
The Hon. GREG DONNELLY: I refer to your
third paragraph and the current arrangements whereby projects are considered on
an individual basis. If I understand your submission correctly, you consider
that is really inadequate for what we are looking at and a more longitudinal
cumulative assessment needs to be done.
Would you like to elaborate on that point?
Ms KALISKA: Each project is considered
separately and if we have a coal seam gas project in an area where we already
have several mines we have to make an assessment on the whole area and not each
project and its impact on the area separately because the impacts can be
cumulative. It should be modelled on a regional scale not just on each project
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: I refer to the water
that is coming out of these coal seam gas wells. In your submission you state
that the gas operations may contain toxic or carcinogenic substances and the
produced water is also highly saline. Have you seen or do you have access to
water test results from those coal seam gas wells that show those figures?
Ms KALISKA: Yes, they were in the
environmental impact assessment by AGL and also in the preliminary groundwater
assessment. I know what the level of salinity is; it is very high.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: Can you recall how
Ms KALISKA: Yes, it is from 3,000 to 9,500
micro Siemens per centimetre.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: Which is about
one-third of the salinity of sea water?
Ms KALISKA: Yes.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: Did you also say in
answer to Mr MacDonald's question that they were planning to discharge two
megalitres per day?
Ms KALISKA: That is the amount of water
produced during the day. We do not yet know how they will manage this water. It
has not yet been worked out.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: So that was not to
be discharged into the river system?
Ms KALISKA: No. They have to store it and
maybe try to develop an irrigation scheme.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: Do you have access
to the water bore logs from within the MidCoast Water area? I presume these
would be water bores that were probably put down under the direction of the
Department of Water for irrigation and so on.
Ms KALISKA: Yes.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: Can you give the
Committee an idea of the range of depths of those bores and the aquifers they
Ms KALISKA: For drinking water supply there
are bores in Tea Gardens which are 20 to 30 metres deep. Irrigation bores can be
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: What sort of
geological strata do those bores penetrate?
Ms KALISKA: Those bores usually are in sand
in the lower catchment.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: So they are surface bores.
Ms KALISKA: Alluvial.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: Can you give the
Committee an idea of the range of quality from those aquifers?
Ms KALISKA: From our drinking water
aquifers? The salinity will be about 150 and of course there will be no heavy
metals or any BTEX. It is good quality water. It can be a little high in iron,
just a bit more than the drinking water guidelines. It could have some aluminium
in this area, but that is all.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: Would you be
prepared to make available to the Committee some of the test results from the
coal seam gas wells that you have access to?
Ms KALISKA: We have the preliminary
groundwater assessment and there is one page with water quality results.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: Are you able to make
that available to the Committee?
Ms KALISKA: Yes.
The Hon. GREG DONNELLY: On page 5 of your
submission you say that an effective regulatory arrangement should be
established to protect town drinking water supply catchments from water
pollution caused by upstream coal seam gas developments. In the next paragraph
you say there is no State legislation dealing specifically with this issue. Are
you saying that at the moment the legislative and regulatory framework in New
South Wales is completely inadequate to deal with this specific issue you are
raising about the effect on your water supplies?
Ms KALISKA: In general there is no
legislation which gives drinking water catchments special status.
Usually legislation deals with environmental issues but not drinking water
issues. That is what we were referring to.
The Hon. GREG DONNELLY: And you submit that
something specific should be put in place, given the domain of your
responsibility, to ensure proper standards are met?
Mr LOADSMAN: That is correct.
CHAIR: Thank you for appearing. Please
provide any data that was requested within 21 days.
(The witnesses withdrew)
Pilliga | Gloucester |
Camden | Northern Rivers
Queensland | Western Australia |
South Australia |