Gas pond approval in murky waters

Metgasco’s holding ponds at Piora Quarry in Casino causing controversy.
Metgasco’s holding ponds at Piora Quarry in Casino causing controversy.

The Northern Rivers Lock the Gate Alliance has accused Metgasco of operating holding ponds that contain 'produced water' (water that is extracted in the process of coal seam gas mining) without consent authority from Richmond Valley Council.

Lock the Gate spokesperson Boudicca Cerese said the ponds at Piora Quarry in Casino contain potentially toxic drilling fluids and that Metgasco had shown a "complete disregard for the laws governing development in this state."

She said documents obtained under the Government Information Public Access (GIPA) legislation and a Richmond Valley Council business paper showed that of the two ponds being operated at the quarry by Metgasco, one was constructed without ever obtaining an approval and the other's development consent expired in September 2010.

Ms Cerese went on to say that the ponds were entirely self-regulated by Metgasco, with no requirement for monitoring overflows, leaks or water quality.

"This is a good example of how the whole regulation and management of the exploration phase of CSG operations is grossly inadequate. To their credit though, Richmond Valley Council imposed much more comprehensive and stringent conditions on the new pond they approved in December 2011."

Metgasco's CEO Peter Henderson said the approval, given by Council in 2007, was for the two ponds and that all work was carried out under the terms of the approved plans.

"The EP&A Act states that if work has been carried out under the condition of the consent,

then the DA does not lapse and continues as fully effective and operative. Despite this Metgasco has complied with the instruction from Council and submitted a new DA for the existing ponds on February 10, 2012."

Richmond Valley Council acting general manager Gary Murphy said the consent had lapsed and Metgasco had been issued with a "show cause" letter.

"Metgasco advised Council they would submit a new DA and undertook not to use the ponds (not to put any more produced water into the ponds) until the matter was resolved and Council will now consider the new application on its merits," Mr Murphy said.

Ms Cerese said given the "serious breaches of law committed by Metgasco... we believe that it is entirely inappropriate for Richmond Valley Council to allow Metgasco ongoing access to public land and we are calling on Council to reject any new applications by Metgasco for use of the Council-owned quarry site."

Council confirmed the DA had been received and is likely to go on public exhibition from this Saturday.

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