AGL has suspended fracking at its Waukivory project after detecting BTEX chemicals in four pilot wells and a water storage tank.
Anti-CSG activists have called for the project near Gloucestor to be suspended, while the NSW EPA has slammed AGL for its lack of transparency.
“AGL informed the EPA that it was aware of these elevated levels of BTEX chemicals on 15 January, but it did not make these results known to the EPA or the public until today,” EPA chief environmental regulator Mark Gifford said.
“The EPA is very concerned at AGL’s lack of timeliness and transparency in informing us of these results and we will be conducting a full investigation.”
BTEX refer to benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene which can have harmful effects on the central nervous system.
These chemicals can occur naturally in coal seams. The Government banned the use of BTEX chemicals in hydraulic fracturing and are prohibited in Environment Protection Licences issued by the EPA.
In a statement released by AGL today, the company said that none of the hydraulic fracturing fluids used at Waukivory contained any of the BTEX components.
“The BTEX detected in the samples is most likely be to naturally occurring, from within the coal seams located at an average depth of approximately 600 metres and brought to the surface as part of the flowback of water from the hydraulic fracturing process”, AGL said.
The EPA will now investigate the source of the elevated levels of BTEX but said when it analysed samples from the site in November 2014 before fracking begun, no BTEX was detected.
AGL said its monitoring of groundwater and surface water shows no evidence to changes in water quality since the commencement of the pilot CSG project.
Managing director Michael Fraser said work at the site was suspended due to community concern around the detection of BTEX.
The Greens NSW mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today said that AGL should pack up and leave the Gloucester Valley following the detection of the chemicals.
“BTEX chemicals in the water are an absolute nightmare and the Greens want a permanent ban on coal seam gas and fracking in NSW. Coal seam gas is unsafe, unnecessary and unwanted,” Buckingham said.
“How many more spills, leaks and accidents will it take before the government acts to ban coal seam gas?
“A moratorium on coal seam gas is no longer good enough; the Greens’ policy of a permanent ban is the only responsible policy to protect our communities and environment.”