Toxins found at third site as fracking fears build

SMH - Ben Cubby, ENVIRONMENT EDITOR November 19, 2010

TRACES of toxic chemicals have been found at a ”fracking” operation to extract coal seam gas – the third time this year that gas producers have detected contamination at a drill site.

Arrow Energy confirmed that benzene, toluene, ethylene and xylene – together known as BTEX – had been found in wells at a gas site east of Mackay, Queensland.

In NSW documents obtained from the Department of Industry and Investment show that a coal seam gas drilling site near Lismore, run by the Sydney company Metgasco, was permitted to use fracking after supplying a generic list of hazardous materials safety guidelines.
Emails between department staff and Metgasco show that testing for coal seam gas using fracking can go ahead without approval being sought or required from the Environment Department.

The practice of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting a mix of water, sand and chemicals underground to force gas to the surface. In October BTEX was discovered in eight wells at drill sites run by Origin Energy about 300 kilometres west of Brisbane. Earlier this year an underground coal gasification project near Kingaroy, Queensland, was temporarily shut when benzene and toluene were detected.

The NSW Greens are calling for a moratorium on coal seam gas extraction and a public inquiry into its long-term effects.
Emails obtained during a call for papers in the NSW upper house show the Environment Department seeking information about fracking, apparently sparked by recent reports in the Herald.

Cate Faehrmann, a Greens MP, said the department appeared to do little more than apply a ”rubber-stamping exercise” to fracking applications.

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