AGL’s coal seam gas mines must shut down, say residents in Sydney’s South-Western suburb of Spring Farm, amid claims of cracking homes and sick family members.
Local resident Danielle Hodges, claims she and her family have been affected since moving into the local area.
“My family has suffered increased hay fever, increased respiratory symptoms, ongoing headaches, nausea, and the children have experienced prolific nose bleeds,” she said.
Documents obtained from The Environment Protection Authority (EPA), show risks of water pollution from wastewater, questions on the integrity of underground storage tanks, and issues with the management of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides at the Camden site.
In a NSW Gas Plan Report, Anthony Roberts, Minister for Resources and Energy stated that the government will deliver ‘world’s best practice’ when regulating gas production in NSW by announcing that no gas mining will be allowed within a two-kilometre radius of people’s homes.
“The NSW Government has already introduced tough new requirements for gas producers which include a two-kilometre exclusion zone around residential and village areas,” he said.
But new homes being constructed in the suburb of Spring Farm near Camden, are only two hundred metres from coal seam gas mining plants, much closer than the NSW Government claims of two kilometres, with residents reporting cracks in their new homes, as well as worrying health concerns.
Spring Farm residents, claim a government loophole has seen the two-kilometre radius apply only to new gas mines, and since some mines were there before their homes, the government has forgotten about them.
Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, senior advisor to the National Toxics Network, released research into the effects of coal seam gas mining to humans in this email sent to the Legislative Council’s Environment and Planning Committee, in 2015. It states:
“Coal seam gas drilling releases toxic BTEX (Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene). Benzene is a human carcinogen. Benzene causes (leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) and also affects the immune system.”
Video By: Helen Megalokonomos
Marina Farid, a local and an opponent of coal seam gas mining, said the NSW health department worked with AGL to create a fact sheet. “It says health impacts are ‘negligible’ however community members are not convinced,” she said.
“Neither soil, water or air is being tested in Spring Farm, even though a new school and shopping centre have been built.”
Dalveer (surname not provided), has recently built an investment property close to the mine, with the first tenants due to move in next week, claims he had no idea his new home was located so close to a gas mine.
“I didn’t know about it, nobody told me anything (when he purchased the land),” he said.
“It would have definitely caught my attention, so, what are they going to do about it? What are the sicknesses people have?”, he asked.
Spokesperson for AGL Brooke Selfe, said she was unaware of any health concerns and therefore could not comment. She did provide a previously written statement by AGL which reads:
“AGL maintains a strong commitment to the safe operation of the Camden Gas Project as well as working and investing to reduce any potential harm to community or environmental health.”
Coal seam gas boreholes in Camden. Image from: SEED NSW government.
AGL’s website claims methane gas has a low toxicity “which has no impacts on human health” and “neither the main gas extracted (methane), nor the most hazardous BTEX compound Benzene, could pose a risk even to health of residents living very close to gas well heads in the Camden area.”
But AGL was fined $1,500 by the EPA, for exceeding the Nitrogen Oxide limits at Camden, and a further fine of $15,000 for a breach in the plant equipment, which saw 10,000 cubic feet of gas released into the air.
The Camden coal gas seam mines, produce approximately 5% of the energy needs for NSW, with the rest of the gas coming from inter-state. AGL’s website states a total of one hundred and forty-four wells exist, but only ninety-six are operational.
With such a low percentage being produced for the state’s gas consumption, questions are being asked about their viability in NSW, by local community and activist groups.
Local activist group ‘Stop CSG Camden’, recently posted an event on their Facebook page, urging residents and locals to join in a protest at the NSW Labor Conference, asking the opposition to commit to a ban on gas mining, and to shut down the site at Camden.
In a media release last year, AGL announced that it will stop the proposed expansion plans into exploratory gas mining, and cease production at its Camden Gas Project, in 2023 – twelve years earlier than the company had previously proposed.
“Exiting our gas assets in New South Wales has been a difficult decision for the company. AGL has invested significantly in these projects and communities over the past seven years for the Gloucester Gas Project, and ten years in the case of the Camden Gas Project,” it stated.
“AGL has regular meetings with community groups, and they will be discussing the decommissioning and rehabilitation schedule,” Selfe said.
There is also a contact number for concerned residents to call, on 1800039600
Danielle Hodges urged AGL, Camden council and state and federal governments to act now, ahead of the proposed mine decommissioning of 2023.
“Think about the people of Camden and the surrounding areas, instead of big business, and close the Camden Gas Project as soon as possible,” she said.
AGL’s Camden Project timeline. Image from: Department of Planning and Environment, Resources and Energy
Article By: Helen Megalokonomos