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Six-day wait while water, gas leaked uncontrolled onto Chinchilla farm

State Government documents have revealed it took six days to authorise a company to remediate a bore hole that was releasing an uncontrolled level of water and gas that was a potential risk to life.

Feb 09, 2022, updated Feb 09, 2022
An old coal exploration  bore hole leaked uncontrolled levels of water onto farmland

An old coal exploration bore hole leaked uncontrolled levels of water onto farmland

The documents, released under Freedom of Information requests by environmental group Lock the Gate, show bureaucrats claiming the release “would appear to be capable of posing a risk to life or property”.

In total, seven boreholes were releasing water.

Lock the Gate said the documents also revealed that it took six days for the State Government to authorise the remediation of legacy coal boreholes, which was done by Origin Energy.

The bore hole was an old coal exploration bore hole and was 2km from Origin’s nearest coal seam gas activities. Origin was not responsible for the management of the bore.

In its assessment of the issue the Department of Natural Resources said the publicity impact from the event was low because it was at an isolated property but “it is noted that anti-coal seam gas sentiment exists around Chinchilla with an active Knitting Nannas Against Gas group and several anti-CSG landholders and advocates in the area”.

The documents said the uncontrolled release of water posed a risk to the property but less of a risk to the cropping land.

The State Government said its resources framework promoted the coexistence of both industries as well as managing environmental impacts.

“When historical and current resources activity overlap, management can be complex and involve a number of government entities, as well as landholders and resources companies,” it said.

“In this case, the several entitles involved attended the site promptly once the seep was reported, assessed the seep as low to medium risk, the site was made secure immediately, and later fully remediated once the responsible resources company was established.”

However, Lock the Gate said the documents showed the Government had no idea of how many legacy coal holes existed, let alone where they are.

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“It’s a multitude of disasters waiting to happen,” spokesperson Ellie Smith said.

“The Palaszczuk Government was paying the price for putting the cart before the horse and allowing CSG companies to run rampant across the Downs without first commissioning detailed research into the risks.

“The July 2020 incident, in which a total of seven legacy coal boreholes were found to be belching salty water and gas onto farmland due to CSG dewatering, laid bare the Palaszczuk Government’s inability to swiftly respond to such emergencies.

“It’s hopeless that it took six days before there was a response, because the government processes are so poor that it needs permission from the coal company that left the bores unrehabilitated many years ago before it can trigger action to address the incident.

“The CSG industry has dewatered vast areas of the Western Downs, and more than 100 water bores have already run dry. Now we’re seeing incidents like this where CSG dewatering is leading to old coal boreholes spewing salty water and gas into the air.”

 

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