These articles raise as many questions as answers about the apparently cosy relationship between Metgasco and Richmond Valley Council mayor, councillors, senior management - remembering Mayor Col Sullivan supported Cr. Stuart George's decision to become a land administration officer with this CSG mining company in 2011.
Lock the Gate Northern Rivers:
Lock the Gate Northern Rivers has received confirmation from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) that Metgasco have been disposing of wastewater from its coal seam gas exploration activities illegally at the Casino Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) for almost a year.
This wastewater disposal practice represents a violation of both the gas company’s water management plan as well as the Richmond Valley Council’s STP license and both parties have been told by the EPA to stop immediately.
This information is contained in a letter from the EPA to lawyers acting for Lock the Gate Northern Rivers which was received late last week. A copy of the letter is available on request.
“We found out in March that Metgasco may be removing wastewater from their holding ponds to stop them overflowing and raised our concerns with Richmond Valley Council at that time,” said Boudicca Cerese, spokesperson for Lock the Gate Alliance Northern Rivers.
“Council then referred the matter to the EPA who have now confirmed that Metgasco have disposed of more than 1 million litres of CSG wastewater at the Casino sewage plant since March 2011 in breach of conditions for management of the plant.”
“This disposal practice makes it obvious that Metgasco’s holding ponds are unable to contain the volumes of wastewater produced in drilling operations, despite repeated assurances by them that the ponds are sufficient and will not overflow during heavy rainfall events.”
“The whole matter indicates complete disregard by Metgasco of the regulations under which this industry is supposed to operate, an apparent lack of concern for the impacts of their activities on the environment, and an inability to properly manage the operations which they are undertaking”.
“What we are seeing is an abysmal failure of the current system to properly manage this harmful industry, with industry and local council both flouting existing regulations and a state government that is failing in its duty of care by neglecting to monitor and control the industry.”
“We are calling on the state government to suspend all of Metgasco’s CSG operations in the region and fully investigate their activities to ensure that no further unlawful practices are taking place.”
“It should not be up to local residents to monitor and report on these companies – that is the role of government and for all their talk about strengthening regulation of the industry, they are currently missing in action on this issue,” she said.
The Northern Star 13 June 2012:
But Metgasco has failed to see what all the fuss is about.
In a statement, chief executive Peter Henderson said that all of the company's operations, including the management of "produced water", was approved by "government authorities".
He also said the discharge was safe.
"We have independent technical advice that produced water ... can be discharged safely to the local sewage plant," he said.
Council general manager John Walker said the council had misinterpreted its licence conditions, but he said the council alerted the EPA after concerns regarding the practice were raised with the council.
"We did it, we thought it was okay, it's not okay so we won't do it any more," Mr Walker said.
On Saturday 8 September 2012 all NSW councils will hold an election, including Richmond Valley Council. Something residents and ratepayers might like to start thinking about right now.