AN INVESTIGATION into Santos’ Narrabri coal seam gas operation has found the company irrigated with treated water without approval.
The issue was raised by the Department of Industry with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after Santos started irrigating a lucerne crop on its property with treated water.
Santos had its other necessary licenses in place with a strict regime of water monitoring, but failed to gain approval for treated water irrigation, the environmental watchdog has claimed.
It is banned from irrigation until the approvals are granted and Santos has been fined $1500 for the alleged administrative failure.
However, a Santos spokeswoman said the irrigation and water treatment practices at Leewood were always within the law.
“Santos welcomes the EPA’s finding that no environmental harm occurred, or is likely to occur, in relation to the water treatment and irrigation of water at Leewood,” she said.
“Santos’ water treatment and irrigation of water at Leewood is, and has always been, fully lawful.
“Santos will, through the relevant administrative review process, submit that the penalty infringement notice issued by the EPA should be withdrawn.”
In NSW, all gas industry activities are subject to detailed government controls.
Santos stopped irrigation activities while the issue was being investigated.
Water use approval is required under the Water Management Act and the EPA is the lead regulator for gas in the state.
The Santos spokeswoman said it was a “false allegation” to suggest irrigation occurred without departmental approval.
It argued the treatment and reuse of the water on the lucerne crop at Leewood was a requirement of its Petroleum Assessment Lease (PAL).
“In March 2017, the NSW Court of Appeal found that the treatment and irrigation of water at Leewood were activities engaged in to satisfy a condition of PAL 2 held by Santos, that the Leewood Project as a whole is for the purposes of ‘petroleum exploration’ and that the beneficial reuse of the water was a requirement of the grant of PAL 2, and in that sense was not independent but rather part, and for the purposes of, petroleum exploration activities,” she said.
“Consequently, no other water use approvals were required.”