AGL's Camden Gas Project, in the Macarthur region of south-west Sydney, has 144 coal seam gas (CSG) wells, of which 96 are currently in production. Twenty of the wells are close to the Nepean River and the upper canal, which carries drinking water from Nepean Dam to Prospect Reservoir. One well is just 40 metres from the river. AGL's CSG mining alongside the Nepean River risks contaminating this water with carcinogenic chemicals and volatile organic compounds.
This contamination risk was brought recently home when heavy rain flooded several of AGL's CSG wells in Menangle Park and Glenlee near the swollen Nepean River, and sent two tanks containing CSG wastewater adrift. Bubbles were seen surfacing near a flooded well site.
Following a call from Lock the Gate Alliance's Dan Robins, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) agreed to urgently investigate the contamination risk posed to nearby residents, the Nepean River and nearby creeks and waterways.
“We believe that there is a high risk that untreated waste water from AGL's Camden CSG wells has been dumped into the Nepean River during the flooding, as tanks have been upended,” Robins said.
“According to AGL's own water monitoring data, the waste water they produce from the Camden gasfield is extremely salty and also contains pollutants like barium and boron.
“This looks like a pollution event that never should have happened, and we don't believe AGL has any licence or authority which allows it to pollute the Nepean River.
“AGL needs to immediately advise how much wastewater has been released into the Nepean River, and provide full disclosure on the contaminants it contains.”
A spokesperson for AGL said: "In the order of 10, out of 96 operating wells, may have had varying levels of floodwater in their proximity."
He rejected claims that gas bubbles filmed near the Menangle Park well could be methane, saying they were carbon dioxide. "Our technicians have used highly sensitive gas detectors to confirm the bubbles in these floodwaters are not methane," he said.
But Robins said AGL's Camden Gas Project "was a disaster zone" after the recent floods. "This is the third time the Menangle Park wells have been flooded since 2013, and it's the third time there's been extensive bubbling nearby," he said.
"We're not satisfied with the assertions from AGL and EPA unless there's proper testing. Our main concern is what was in those tanks. The community's questions still remain unanswered; how much produced water was released and what was in that water?
“People in the Menangle Park area have repeatedly raised concerns about AGL's CSG wells in floodwaters near Sydney in areas adjoining the Nepean River, and the real risk that poses to our water.
“CSG and unconventional gas should not operate in important water sources. It should be banned from floodplains and water catchments and all nationally significant water sources should be fully protected.
“AGL should display some corporate responsibility and shut down these wells immediately, rather than continuing to risk NSW water.”
All 96 of AGL's coal seam gas wells should be shut down now.
[You can sign the petition here.]