News

Tests underway to assess risks to livestock from gas leaks

James Nason, 12/08/2015

 

Cattle producers in an area of Southern Queensland affected by gas leaks from an Underground Coal Gassification operation have been advised that the risk of contamination to livestock is considered low.

However, producer group AgForce says the industry is still waiting on test results to get an accurate picture of what the risks are.

Earlier this week ABC News released details of a Queensland Government report which indicates that gas leaks from Linc Energy’s UCG operations near Chinchilla over the past 14 years have caused human health effects and widespread, high impact and irreversible environmental impacts to prime agricultural land.

Another top of mind issue for livestock producers in the region is whether leaks of potentially toxic gas could also result in the contamination of livestock they sell.

Livestock producers are required to sign National Vendor Declaration forms when they sell cattle, declaring that the livestock are free from contaminants and guaranteeing their food-safety status.

The question of whether livestock producers can be held legally responsible for contamination of livestock that occurs without their knowledge as a result of gas extraction activities remains largely unresolved.

The basic message for producers in close proximity to gas operations is to seek independent legal advice, and, to use that advice in negotiating land access agreements with gas companies before projects proceed. (See Beef Central’s earlier report on this issue from March last year)

In response to the concerns raised about gas leaks from Linc Energy’s Chinchilla UCG project, AgForce told Beef Central yesterday that initial advice from the Queensland Government suggested livestock contamination risks from the operation should be low.

“Our initial advice from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection was that gases were found below the root zone in the soil so immediate impacts to grazing animals and stock are considered low,” an AgForce spokesperson said.

“However we will wait for further testing from independent experts in addition to the ongoing soil sampling being undertaken.

“The ongoing  leakage of report excerpts such as last night (Monday night) makes it very difficult for affected landholders to get an accurate picture of what has gone on and what the risks are.”

The spokesperson said AgForce also congratulated the State Government’s regulators for stepping in to take action for alleged breaches relating to the Chinchilla UCG project.

“Our members want to have confidence in the regulatory framework and the protections in place, while reminding companies that they are bound by legislation with which they must comply.”

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