Origin stops coal seam gas drilling after chemicals found in water

SMH - Ben Cubby - 21.10.2010

Farmers near a coal seam gas ”fracking” site in Queensland will have their water supplies tested for toxic benzene and other chemicals today after Origin Energy found contaminated water near drilling sites.

The discovery of BTEX – a mixture of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene – around eight coal seam gas wells near Miles, west of Brisbane, marks the first time a resources company has admitted to contaminating water at a fracking site.

Origin detected the chemicals a week ago and told the Queensland government – which is legislating to ban the use of BTEX chemicals during coal seam gas drilling – on Friday.

The controversial process has fuelled protests from landholders in Australia and the United States, where government tests have detected harmful levels of hydrocarbons, including BTEX, in drinking water wells in areas where fracking is used.

Origin refused to disclose the mixture of chemicals used in the fracking fluid that it was using on the site. The US company Halliburton supplied the fluids.

Opponents of coal seam gas drilling in Australia say the contamination does not bode well.

”We are continually being told that the process is safe but … we can’t get any information out of the companies,” said a spokesman for the Hunter Valley Protection Alliance, John Thomson.

The group is staging a protest against coal seam gas drilling in Martin Place today.


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