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Coal Seam Gas - Deadly Time Bomb
by staff report via stan - Eco Watch Thursday, Dec 8 2011, 11:44pm
international / environment / other press

Pristine Water Tables Polluted

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft analysis of data Dec. 8 from its Pavillion, Wyoming ground water investigation. At the request of Pavillion residents, EPA began investigating water quality concerns in private drinking water wells three years ago. Since that time, in conjunction with the state of Wyoming, the local community, and the owner of the gas field, Encana, EPA has been working to assess ground water quality and identify potential sources of contamination.

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EPA constructed two deep monitoring wells to sample water in the aquifer. The draft report indicates that ground water in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing. EPA also re-tested private and public drinking water wells in the community. The samples were consistent with chemicals identified in earlier EPA results released in 2010 and are generally below established health and safety standards. To ensure a transparent and rigorous analysis, EPA is releasing these findings for public comment and will submit them to an independent scientific review panel. The draft findings announced Dec. 8 are specific to Pavillion, where the fracturing is taking place in and below the drinking water aquifer and in close proximity to drinking water wells—production conditions different from those in many other areas of the country.

Natural gas plays a key role in our nation’s clean energy future and the Obama administration is committed to ensuring that the development of this vital resource occurs safely and responsibly. At the direction of Congress, and separate from this ground water investigation, EPA has begun a national study on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.

“EPA’s highest priority remains ensuring that Pavillion residents have access to safe drinking water,” said Jim Martin, EPA’s regional administrator in Denver. “We will continue to work cooperatively with the state, Tribes, Encana and the community to secure long-term drinking water solutions. We look forward to having these findings in the draft report informed by a transparent and public review process. In consultation with the Tribes, EPA will also work with the state on additional investigation of the Pavillion field.”

Findings in the Two Deep Water Monitoring Wells:

EPA’s analysis of samples taken from the agency’s deep monitoring wells in the aquifer indicates detection of synthetic chemicals, like glycols and alcohols consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids, benzene concentrations well above Safe Drinking Water Act standards and high methane levels. Given the area’s complex geology and the proximity of drinking water wells to ground water contamination, EPA is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking water wells over time.

Findings in the Private and Public Drinking Water Wells:

EPA also updated its sampling of Pavillion area drinking water wells. Chemicals detected in the most recent samples are consistent with those identified in earlier EPA samples and include methane, other petroleum hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds. The presence of these compounds is consistent with migration from areas of gas production. Detections in drinking water wells are generally below established health and safety standards. In the fall of 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reviewed EPA’s data and recommended that affected well owners take several precautionary steps, including using alternate sources of water for drinking and cooking, and ventilation when showering. Those recommendations remain in place and Encana has been funding the provision of alternate water supplies.

Before issuing the draft report, EPA shared preliminary data with, and obtained feedback from, Wyoming state officials, Encana, Tribes and Pavillion residents. The draft report is available for a 45 day public comment period and a 30 day peer-review process led by a panel of independent scientists.

© 2011 EcoWatch.org

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Blockade prompts AGL to suspend CSG exploration
by staff report via stele - ABC (Oz) Friday, Dec 9 2011, 6:34am

Protesters targeting a coal seam gas operation in northern New South Wales say they will maintain their blockade, despite the company suspending its operation.

AGL has agreed to stop work at the property near Gloucester after access to the site was blocked by the protesters for three days.

The activists had demanded the suspension until their appeal against the 330-well exploration licence is dealt with in the state's Land and Environment Court.

A statement released by AGL said the company had reluctantly reached the decision, because of the impact it would have on local suppliers so close to Christmas.

Graeme Healy, a local resident and member of the Barrington-Gloucester-Stroud Preservation Alliance, says the swift backdown is welcome.

"I am a little bit shocked actually. I didn't think it would happen this quickly. And I certainly welcome the fact that it has," Mr Healy said.

AGL spokesman Mike Moraza says the company has the land owner's permission, and will use the suspension to consult more with the community.

"We have also explained to the alliance that other work on the Gloucester gas project will continue in the meantime, including seismic surveying, ground water monitoring, irrigation trials, and helimag surveys," he said.

Mr Healy says the protesters will still not be going home.

"The blockade will be maintained in a slightly lower key fashion. We have moved the vehicles off the street at the request of the police," he said.

"But there will be a presence maintained there, a 24-hour, seven-day presence, and I guess this is largely symbolic because I don't expect AGL to go back on their word."

The Gloucester blockade is the latest in a series of stand-offs between coal seam gas companies and residents concerned about the industry's impact on their communities.

© 2011 ABC

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Tests reveal CSG contaminated water near drilling site in NSW
by Ben Cubby via ben - SMH Friday, Dec 9 2011, 6:40am

THE state's first case of water contamination from coal seam gas drilling has been discovered in north-western NSW, according to independent tests.

High levels of ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide, lithium, cyanide, bromide and boron were found around a water discharge point near a Santos coal seam gas operation in the Pilliga forest, near Narrabri.

The state government last night confirmed it would conduct its own investigation and testing of the site.

Water samples gathered by environment groups Friends of the Earth and The Wilderness Society were tested by East West EnviroAg, an independent laboratory in Tamworth that services agricultural and mining clients.

It found samples from Bohena Creek, near a coal seam gas well discharge pipe, contained ammonia at three times the safe level recommended by drinking water guidelines. Upstream samples were uncontaminated.

Santos, which took over the exploratory drilling site from Eastern Star Gas last month, said it had not seen the test results and had doubts about the credibility of the environment groups that collected the samples. It cited a NSW Office of Water study that said ammonia levels in the waterway were normally high, as a result of runoff from nitrate-based fertilisers.

''Discharged water is tested on a monthly basis and all recent results have met NSW requirements,'' the company said in a statement.

''Santos is confident it is not in breach of its authority or having any adverse impact on water resources in the area.''

The NSW Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services, which is responsible for regulating most aspects of the coal seam gas industry, yesterday launched its own investigation. The NSW Environment Protection Authority told the Herald last night it had also contacted the department and would follow up on the investigation.

The water being discharged into Bohena Creek is pumped from deep underground during the drilling and gas extraction process, and is released into the creek under licence from the government after being treated by a reverse osmosis plant.

Carmel Flint, a spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth, said she resented the claim from Santos that the high contaminant levels in the water might be from farming.

''We are astonished that Santos are apparently trying to shift the blame to farmers for their own polluting activities,'' she said.

''There is no farming along the Bohena Creek where the water was collected - it is located entirely in the Pilliga State Forest … This is Santos's coal seam gas water, it is their very own pollutants that are flowing in to that creek system.''

The plan inherited by Santos from Eastern Star Gas calls for 1100 gas wells across the Pilliga forest.

The test results were released as the NSW parliamentary inquiry into coal seam gas conducted another hearing in Sydney. It heard from industry executives and engineers that there had been no known incidents of water pollution resulting from coal seam gas operations in the state.

© 2011 Fairfax Media

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