Court orders Santos hand over data, docs

A COURT has ordered energy giant Santos to hand over all water monitoring data relating to two contaminated bores on a property in the Pilliga Forest.

The Land and Environment Court yesterday gave Santos until the end of October to produce data and documents farmers had been seeking for two years.

Farm group Mullaley Gas and Pipeline Accord (MGPA) commenced legal action in May amid claims Santos was refusing to make public key information.

“It’s a complete win,” said NSW Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) principal solicitor Sue Higginson, who represented the MGPA in court.

“Santos now has until October 31, to comply with the court order to provide the requested data and documents relevant to potential groundwater contamination in and around the property.”

The bores in question are located on a property owned by grazier Tony Pickard that neighbours a site used for exploratory coal seam gas drilling.

The EDO said Mr Pickard was advised by Santos in 2012 that testing showed one bore was unfit for drinking and domestic use and other was showing effects of possible contamination.

Mr Pickard told The Leader yesterday he and other farmers in the region decided they had no choice but to take legal action in order to obtain the documents.

“My belief is that my groundwater source has been contaminated and we’re trying to find out where from,” he said.

Santos has previously dismissed the court action as a “data trawl” and said there were “a lot more plausible reasons” for the contamination than it being related to coal seam gas activities.

A spokeswoman said yesterday the company “remains confident that there is no connection between our operations and the bacteria identified in Mr Pickard’s bore”.

“At all times, Santos has acted in good faith with the information requested by the EDO,” she said.

Santos has already spent more than $1 billion pursuing its controversial plans to establish a coal seam gas field in and around the Pilliga Forest.

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