A COMMUNITY group has expressed “deep concerns” about the Namoi Catchment Water Study after its completion months ago.
One of the study’s several stakeholder advisory committees, the Namoi Community Network, says there were serious risks raised in the final report outlining the impacts of mining and gas extraction on ground surface water in the North West.
The study found groundwater levels in four locations, in and around the Liverpool Plains and Tamworth and Gunnedah districts, were determined to be at high risk from coal and gas developments.
The Namoi group fears those risks will now be “swept under the carpet” if the state government, which commissioned the study, dismisses it.
It has met to review what it calls the underdone study in an attempt to readdress the issues and make sure they don’t “gather dust.”
The multi-million dollar scientific study was commissioned by the state government in September, 2010, in response to mounting community pressure over the coal seam gas and mining roll-out in the Gunnedah basin.
Chairman Hugh Price said they wanted some foresight into the mining and coal seam gas industries’ long-term effects on the region’s water.
“If they pulled out all stops, what would happen?” Mr Price said.
The group wants scenario seven released; one of the study’s many hypothesised models that predicts impacts on water if the industry develops at varying levels.
Scenario seven predicts what could happen to the Namoi Valley if an intensive extractive industries development – like the Hunter
Valley’s – was allowed to progress without restrictions.
Mr Price believes the scenario could expose the danger of full scale development, which could one day be a reality in the Namoi Valley.
“Minister for Resources and Energy Chris Hartcher has put his foot on the gas without the science being in,” Mr Price said.
He said the study’s peer review process should be initiated so the minister and industry players could not understate or dismiss its impacts.
“The study is gathering dust while the government rolls out the red carpet to Santos, Shenhua, Whitehaven and others.”
He also believes clearer discourse is needed from the study as the scientific jargon confuses the average reader.
“That’s one of the difficulties with such a complex document,” he said.
The Namoi Community Network suggests the study should be handed over to the Namoi Catchment Management Authority so it can continue updating models and studying effects on local water
Schlumberger Water Services originally carried out the study, to model possible effects to the Namoi Catchment’s groundwater and surface water flows from future coal mining and coal seam gas
Upon the study’s release at the end of July, Schlumberger researchers admitted there were data gaps which meant there
was still uncertainty surrounding those effects.