In grave news for the 4.5 million people whose water is sourced from the Sydney Water Catchment, the Department of Planning and Infrastructure has recommended approval of Apex Energy’s modification application. The modification would revive the plan to drill 16 coal seam gas (CSG) wells in and around the Woronora and Upper Nepean drinking water catchments. Apex Energy has also been sent a renewal offer for a lapsed exploration licence – PEL 442 – that extends from Scarborough in the north to Dapto in the south; a licence required for the project to go ahead.
Eleven of the sixteen wells are in Sydney Water Catchment Authority (SCA) Special Areas, so protected that the public can be fined up to $44,000 simply for setting foot in them.
This news follows the announcement earlier this week that the entire board of the SCA has been overhauled. The new chairperson is a former director of two of Australia’s largest mining companies, and for the first time in its history there is no public health expert on the board. It also flies in the face of the Premiers’ pre-election promise to rule out mining in the catchment.
How can the Government allow the risks of CSG development into the very areas set up to protect drinking water? CSG exploration and mining always involves unearthing water that is high in salt and methane, and can contain toxic and radioactive compounds and heavy metals. And the risks are not theoretical; heavy metals and toxins have contaminated soil and water, CSG sites have leaked methane and fracking chemicals have spewed into the air.
The Government seems hell bent on developing CSG in the drinking water catchment, regardless of risk or level of community opposition. They have shown complete contempt for the thousands who rallied in October to Protect H2O.
How can it possibly be acceptable that the authority charged with protecting our drinking water – for the purpose of public health – has not one public health expert, but is headed up by a former mining executive?
It is both deeply disturbing and revolting that we have to fight our Government to have our drinking water protected.
Regardless of this Government recommendation, and whatever the Planning Assessment Commission decides, this community will not let CSG development in the drinking water catchment go ahead.