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Bubbling river ‘no danger’ to health or environment: Qld Govt

Beef Central, 21/01/2013

Click to view video footage taken of bubbling water in the Condamine River on May 28, 2012 by anti-CSG campaigner Dayne Pratzky.

Investigations into bubbles that have appeared in the Condamine River in close proximity to coal seam gas fields have yet to determine the source of the phenomenon, but have confirmed the bubbles pose ‘no risk’ to the environment or to human and animal health, the Queensland Government says.

In May last year anti-coal seam gas industry campaigners produced video footage of gas bubbling to the surface along a five kilometre stretch of the Condamine River near Chinchilla.

Lock The Gate Alliance spokesman Drew Hutton said the bubbling gas was found in at least four spots along the river close to coal seam gas fields operated by Origin Energy.

At the time Mr Hutton said that while it was possible for methane to naturally bubble to the surface of waterways, local farmers in the area had never witnessed such an event in the Condamine River.

“The fact that it is occurring along several kilometres of the river would suggest it is not an isolated occurrence but a major leak and has found its way to the surface along migration pathways opened up by the de-watering of aquifers or fracking,” Mr Hutton said following the detection.

“I don’t think there is any doubt this extensive leak is linked to the coal seam gas drilling, and probably fracking, that is occurring in nearby wells.”

In releasing the “Condamine River Gas Seep Investigation Report” this morning, Queensland natural resources and mines minister Andrew Cripps said the gas posed no risk to human or environmental safety.

He said the report did not provide evidence of the cause of the gas seeps.

Mr Cripps said his department had mapped along 60km of the Condamine River downstream from Chinchilla Weir, as well as 10km of the Charley’s Creek tributary, and conducted gas safety testing of the four identified gas seeps, as well as at adjacent properties at key sites.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) had also conducted water and soil sampling along the river.

“Analysis of these results has to date found no evidence of gas safety or water quality risks to the community from the gas seeps or any evidence of environmental harm,” Mr Cripps said.

“Results also indicate that the gas is predominantly composed of methane, consistent with gas originating from Surat Basin geological formations.”

Mr Cripps said Queensland Government agencies had started the next phase of their investigation into the bubbling gas seeps downstream of Chinchilla Weir in the Condamine River.

“The focus of new activities will be ongoing water quality monitoring and periodic gas safety assessments of the river and water bores on adjacent properties,” he said.

“While the results of this report don’t provide definite evidence of the source or cause of the gas seeps, we are taking a long-term approach to find science-based answers to this phenomenon.”

Mr Cripps said investigations by the Government had been independent of an investigation being conducted by coal seam gas company, Origin.

Mr Cripps said the next phase of the investigation by Queensland Government agencies will involve:

  • Ongoing water quality monitoring in the Condamine River by DEHP, in order to assess potential environmental harm
  • Periodic gas safety assessments of nearby landholder water bores by the DNRM Petroleum and Gas Inspectorat
  • The Geological Survey of Queensland will revise the geological mapping of the affected area in the Surat Basin
  • Further in-depth review of historical groundwater data of nearby gassy bores, utilising all available departmental records

“A key aspect of government’s ongoing gas seep investigation is the verification of Origin data in order to ensure the company’s investigation is rigorous and is independently assessed,” he said.

“An independent scientific review will be completed by Queensland’s Chief Scientist, Dr Geoff Garrett, to ensure that Origin’s investigation and verification actions by government agencies, achieve a high scientific standard and integrity.

“All this work will be coordinated by the government’s LNG Enforcement Unit and adjacent landholders will be kept fully informed about activities and findings.”

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