HOME » Coal and Coal Seam Gas » The Pilliga Forest NSW (series) » What a racket!
What a racket!

BREAKING NEWS - On Friday 10 February Santos admitted that there had been three more spills of produced coal seam gas water in the Pilliga since it took over the project. This included one spill of 2,000L and another of 1,000L. This validates concerns raised earlier by conservationists about additional spills. In response, NICE have called for coal seam gas operations in the Pilliga to be shut-down immediately while an independent investigation is conducted and for a proper moratorium on all gas drilling across NSW.

Play  A racket about CSG in the Pilliga Forest  wscarmel flint 4.mp3  
To listen to soundfile: click on the headphones icon
To download soundfile: click on the mp3 file name


Carmel Flint, from the Northern Inland Council for the Environment (NICE), highlights the failures in the regulations for coal seam gas with government departments not ensuring compliance.
At the moment the toxic water produce by the coal seams is stored in three storage dams right in the heart of the Pilliga state forest. There is also a reverse osmosis plant that treats the water.

Last October, members of NICE observed that a swathe of dead trees extending from the storage dams out into the bush
. As they were suspicious that these dying mature ironbark trees were linked to the storage facility, this matter was reported to the Environmental Protection Authority who control pollution laws and the Department of Trade and Investment who regulate the coal seam gas industry. 

Their response was
that they had contacted Eastern Star Gas and were sure that the dying ironbarks was a result of waterlogging. To this end, they also said they had considered sending State Forest and Eastern Star Gas workers into the area to cut down the dead trees.


Dead trees around the reverse osmosis plant and dams from which the leak apparently emerged. Since the dam is actually in behind a fenced area where community access is not allowed, it has not been possible to obtain good photos of the source of the leak. 

Clearly NICE was not impressed with this response and so their suspicions of leakage from the storage facility were not allayed. They suggested soil samples should be taken, work that the Soil Commission would do. Such sampling usually takes ten days to get soil and water samples done but nothing was done for the next two months. Taking samples should be bread and butter stuff for regulators and the samples need to be taken immediately.
This hands-off approach would still be happening today if it weren’t for a local farmer who took another look at the site and found black, tarry-looking water on the surface, with more dead trees. He contacted the media, arguing very well that there had been a toxic spill.

Vegetation of all all sizes has died off where contamination has occurred. Photo P Spark

Santos (the new owners) admitted in January that there had been two toxic spills, one being 10,000 litres of coal seam gas water in last June when the company was owned by Eastern Star Gas. They also admitted to their own spill of 250 litres of algacide.

Below: Dead vegetation with contaminated water still present on surface after coal seam gas spill. Photo T Pickard    
Under the exploration licence for this coal seam gas area, the company is bound to report such spills, a fundamental breach of the licence. Meanwhile the two state government agencies continue to pass the buck to each other and there has still been no sampling carried out. The government and the government agencies seem to be grossly disinterested in the regulatory aspects of coal seam gas.
The onus to do something then fell to community members who eventually garnered enough funds to employ an ecologist to collect soil and water samples from the contaminated area and the area outside that. The results are serious and disturbing.

Below: Black sludgy pool of contaminated coal seam gas water that has leaked out into the forest. Photo T Pickard    
The contamination shows high levels of arsenic, lead, chromium and other heavy metals along with salts and chlorides.

The fact that Santos wants more extensive pipelines to carry the coal seam gas water from other areas of the Pilliga strikes fear into the hearts of NICE, when pipeline spills such as this are so toxic to the environment.

NICE believes that the Pilliga coal seam gas operation should be shut down while proper investigations are conducted, and a proper state-wide moratorium on all gas drilling put in place.

As for the state regulators, they seem to be unable to enforce licence and pollution laws. It’s time we made a racket about this protection.

Carmel Flint was interviewed for A Question of Balance by Ruby Vincent. Images supplied by Carmel Flint. Summary text by Victor Barry, February, 2012.

For more information, please contact us
The Pilliga: State Forest or CSG precinct? Clear Off!

Print Friendly Add to Favourites
Design & SEO by Image Traders Pty Ltd.  Copyright © A Question Of Balance 2019. All rights reserved.