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Is Coal Seam Gas Polluting Groundwater?

Protesters called for no further expansion of coal and coal seam gas.

Protesters called for no further expansion of coal and coal seam gas outside the Gunnedah Basin Coal and Energy Conference held in Newcastle on 25 June 2012. Photo: Kate Ausburn

By Kate Osborne

Landholders are adamant that coal seam gas is contaminating their groundwater, but natural geological processes make their accusations difficult to prove. Now science is starting to fill in the cracks.

Kate Osborne is an ecologist and science writer.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Brian Monk calls himself a coal seam gas refugee. At a protest rally in October 2011 he described the series of events that led him to conclude that his drinking water had been contaminated by coal seam gas activity.

He says the first thing that happened was his grandchildren started crying in the bath one night. “We hoicked them out of the bath and they had a ring around them. Everything that had been in the water was red like a burn, a scald. We stopped using the water for everything but washing clothes. Shortly after that, the stock (cattle) stopped drinking the water. Then a few months ago, the frogs that were happily living in the tank we pump the water from died.”

Brian’s water comes from a registered freshwater bore on his property. He claims there is a lot of gas suspended in the bore water: “We were lighting the gas from the bore... You don’t need to see it. You can feel it. Hold onto the inch-and-a-half pipe and you can feel the gas bubbling through.”

As the coal seam gas industry begins to ramp up production, the views of supporters and those opposing the industry have become increasingly polarised. Supporters believe the industry is safe and will create jobs, diversify rural economies and bring prosperity through mining royalties and investment. Detractors believe the industry will put Australia’s food security at risk, destroy rural...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.