Company addresses safety concerns
COAL-seam gas company Metgasco has touted its environmental credentials in response to an allegation the company has illegally removed toxic waste water from holding ponds near Casino.
In a statement, the company said it had operated the ponds on the Bruxner Highway at Woodview, west of Casino, safely for four years.
The statement was issued in response to an allegation by anti-coal-seam gas group Lock the Gate Alliance Northern Rivers that the company may be carting water away from the ponds without authority.
The claim followed the revelation last month that approval for the ponds, which is required from the Richmond Valley Council, had lapsed in September 2010.
Drawing on an email sent by former Metgasco chief financial officer Glenda McLoughlin in re- sponse to an enquiry from a North Coast resident, Lock the Gate said it was concerned the company was removing water from the ponds to avoid overflows from the site.
"We were highly alarmed when Metgasco's chief financial officer told a local resident in an email that, 'if our ponds approach their capacity we cart water away to be treated'," Lock the Gate Northern Rivers co-ordinator Ian Gaillard said.
"As far as we can tell, Metgasco has no authority to be removing this toxic water from the ponds, as the consent conditions clearly state that 'only clean and unpolluted waters are to leave the site'.
"This raises a whole lot of questions about how much potentially hazardous wastewater is being carted away, where it is being disposed of, why the ponds are unable to contain the water volumes being dumped there and whether they may have overflowed in the past.
"It also casts serious doubt on Metgasco's ability to safely operate a gas field if they can't even adequately manage a couple of ponds."
Metgasco did not respond directly to the claim it may have carted water from the site, nor did it advise where any such water would be disposed of or treated.
However, Metgasco chief Peter Henderson did say the company had never had a spill or overflow from the ponds despite flood events and heavy rainfall in the area.
Lock the Gate also called on the Richmond Valley Council to investigate their concerns and to commission soil sampling adjacent to the ponds.
But council acting general manager Gary Murphy said the council had no issue with water being removed from the site "if it is being transported, reused and/or disposed of in an environmentally responsible and appropriate manner".
The council is currently assessing Metgasco's application for a new development consent in relation to the ponds.