Farmer group may launch civil action

A GROUP of farmers opposed to coal seam gas extraction near Narrabri could use new information to launch civil action against energy giant Santos.

The Mullaley Gas and Pipeline Accord (MGPA) this week won a NSW Land and Environment Court battle for the release of key water and soil quality data.

The data and documents, to be supplied by Santos before October 31, relate to the contamination of at least one water bore on a property in the Pilliga Forest.

The MGPA is concerned that Santos’s exploratory coal seam gas drilling is responsible for contaminating a groundwater source on land owned by grazier Tony Pickard.

In 2012, Mr Pickard was alerted by Santos that his bore, located about 1.5km from the coal seam gas wells, was unfit for drinking or domestic use.

Santos, which is proposing to drill up to 850 coal seam gas wells in and around the Pilliga Forest, “remains confident” there is no link between its activities and the contamination.

“Santos notes that Mr Pickard has grazing animals, a disused collapsed bore and a septic tank system all in close proximity to his bore, which may be the source of the bacteria,” a spokesman said.

However, Environmental Defenders Office NSW principal solicitor Sue Higginson said water testing and expert scientific advice indicated the company’s activities could be to blame.

MGPA president David Quince said Mr Pickard had kept “impeccable” groundwater records dating back years and “all tested by the very best of authorities”.

“When he found out his bore had been contaminated and went to the CSG industry that’s cropped up next to him for certain information, he had to go to the courts to find out basic stuff,” he said.

“You’d have thought being such an open and transparent industry, as they say they are, they would readily give that information out.”

The MGPA say the data might be used to launch civil enforcement proceedings against Santos over water pollution which, if successful, could vindicate anti-CSG activists’ claims the industry poses a risk to aquifers.

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