EPA allows water dump

COAL-seam gas producer Metgasco will dump five million litres of "production water" into the Casino Sewerage Treatment plant after yesterday receiving the go-ahead from the state's Environment Protection Authority.

The "one-off" approval follows Metgasco's unauthorised disposal of 1.3 million litres of production water in June that earned Richmond Valley Council a formal warning from the EPA.

Yet in a statement released late last night, the EPA's acting chief environmental regulator Mark Gifford dismissed any concerns.

"The EPA is satisfied that the Sewerage Treatment Plant can effectively treat the produced water without compromising the environmental performance of the plant," he said.

"The EPA has also included a special licence condition requiring council to ensure that monitoring is undertaken and to report to the EPA during the water delivery and treatment process. This will ensure that the EPA can properly regulate the activity."

He said the decision to approve Richmond Valley Council's application was made after it received confirmation from the NSW Office of Water that it had under- taken a review and issued an approval for the disposal at the Casino treatment plant.

Mr Gifford said the one-off disposal of waste water was not a long-term solution but was necessary to allow Metgasco to reduce the volume in storage ponds to avoid the risk of overflows.

Under its licensing, Metgasco must develop a long-term management plan to dispose of water produced when extracting the gas.

Lock the Gate Northern Rivers regional spokesman and long-term resident Ian Gillard last night challenged Metgasco to release its water disposal plan and suggested the EPA had been placed under pressure to allow the one-off disposal.

"I would say they (EPA) have received influence further up the chain in the State Government; that would be my assumption," Mr Gillard said.

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