Santos to Provide Water Data After Legal Action by Farmers

Coal seam gas (CSG) company Santos today agreed in the NSW Land and Environment Court to provide water monitoring data after legal action by farmers seeking information relating to the contamination of water bores on a property in the Pilliga Forest, near Narrabri, in north-west NSW.

1 September 2014

On May 21 this year, the local farming group, Mullaley Gas and Pipeline Accord Inc (MGPA), represented by environmental legal centre, EDO NSW, applied to the Land and Environment Court for a preliminary discovery order for any relevant information held by Santos. The company had previously refused to provide all these documents.

The action follows the contamination of freshwater bores on the property of a farmer, whose land adjoins a site used for exploratory CSG drilling. He was advised by Santos in 2012 that the bore water was unfit for drinking and domestic use. Another bore, closer to the CSG site, has also shown effects of possible contamination.

“Santos now has until 31 October 2014 to comply with the court order to provide the requested data and documents relevant to potential groundwater contamination in and around the property, near Narrabri,” said EDO NSW Principal Solicitor, Sue Higginson.

The Land and Environment Court today issued an order, agreed by both parties, for Santos to provide a range of documents including;

  • all test results from sampling of bores on the property with the contaminated bore, and expert advice to Santos about this testing;
  • all test results from water and soil samples from a group of pilot CSG drilling sites, part of Santos’ Dewhurst CSG site, which are to the north of the property;
  • all water quality testing results for groundwater samples and monitoring held by Santos taken from stock and domestic bores within a 4km radius of these CSG drilling sites; and
  • All documents detailing the history of storage of wastewater produced at the Dewhurst CSG, site including reports on any leaks, spills or overflows.

Santos deny any responsibility for the contamination but Ms Higginson said water testing and expert scientific advice identifies CSG activities as a possible source.

Ms Higginson said the information to be provided by Santos will assist the farmers group to decide whether to launch civil enforcement proceedings against the company for water pollution under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW).

“This case highlights the problems of a largely self-regulatory system which relies on CSG companies doing their own water monitoring and reporting and does not require this information to be made public,” Ms Higginson said. 

MGPA Chairperson David Quince said: “We welcome today’s decision and hope that this will assist local farmers to determine the source of the ground water contamination.

“We’ve been trying for the past two years to find out how this contamination occurred but Santos has not fully answered our inquiries. It is vital that we now get the information needed to assess the impact of CSG activities on groundwater resources.”

Contacts: jon.walter@edonsw.org.au 90173915 or 0404 647 842