Inquiry Into Coal Seam Gas

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Poorly planned or managed coal seam gas (CSG) exploration or extraction activities pose considerable risks to both groundwater and surface water systems. Key water quality issues, from my own perspective, are listed below. Specific issues may be of greater or lesser significance for particular projects, but all of these issues should be thoroughly and transparently assessed for all proposed (or existing) projects.

Drilling through aquifers, impervious rock and coal seams risks ‘interconnecting’ otherwise confined aquifers. In such circumstances, aquifers holding large volumes of pristine water can be contaminated by mixing with other contaminated waters. Many shallow groundwater systems in urban and rural areas are contaminated by industrial and agricultural chemicals. Some aquifers are highly saline and may contain naturally occurring toxic chemicals. Waters from coal seams are known to naturally contain considerable quantities of toxic chemicals including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (collectively known as ‘BTEX’). Interconnecting isolated pristine aquifers has the potential to seriously impact future valuable drinking water supplies.

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