Hunt for gas sparks toxic chemical fear

Courier Mail, June 2010

WILL Queensland’s mammoth coal seam gas industry bring the threat of leukaemia, kidney damage, heart and respiratory failure?
The question has to be asked after allegations in the US that families became seriously ill after drinking water containing toxic gas mining chemicals.

The US Environmental Protection Agency began an investigation last week that could have a profound impact on the future of the Queensland coal seam gas industry, said to be worth up to $200 billion.

The US EPA will assess the pollution caused by a gas extraction method called hydraulic fracturing, or “fraccing”, a procedure which is used widely in Queensland. It’s a mining method that involves injecting massive amounts of chemical brine deep underground to release natural gas.

According to articles in the New York Times and Scientific American, hydraulic fracturing involves more than 260 chemicals, including benzene and many other toxic substances.

I’ve been told naphthalene and ethylene glycol have been widely used by Queensland gas miners in the recent past. The US Health Department and the International Agency for Research on Cancer list naphthalene as a possible carcinogen. Ethylene glycol is a toxin that can affect the central nervous system, the heart, and the kidneys.

Scientific American reported: “It found that as much as a third of injected fluids, benzene in particular, remains in the ground after drilling and is likely to be transported by groundwater.”

It said several household water wells had been contaminated since large-scale coal seam gas production began.

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