9 December, 2011 8:41AM AEDT
Coalfields in the northern Illawarra stretch the boundaries of responsible mining
By Nick McLaren
The practice of riverbed cracking due to longwall coal mining continues in the Illawarra more than 10 years after a section of the Cataract River near Appin drained away, releasing methane through the cracks, which caught on fire.
It was a remarkable image that naturally gave rise to widespread condemnation followed by seeming agreement that such severe damage to rivers from mining should never be allowed to happen again.
The issue was addressed in great detail when the state government held a special inquiry into the southern coalfield in 2006 to specifically examine the effects of underground coal mining on "rivers, creeks, swamps and cliff lines".
So it came as a shock to a small a group of people this week to view first hand the ongoing effects of riverbed cracking in highly regulated Sydney Catchment lands.
The location was the Waratah Rivulet, located deceptively close to the Helensburgh turnoff from the F-6 southern freeway.
Inside two sets of locked gates lies the pristine bushland of the Woronora Special Area.
It's insane beyond words. In Queensland they are putting a mine in a nature reserve. Landholders cannot develop the land once a nature reserve agreement is signed but doesn't stop those miners!! It's just madness.
More than 20 Pavillion well owners contacted the EPA over the course of a decade, requesting a study of their groundwater. The agency began looking into the problem in 2009, beginning its research by taking samples from privately owned wells and municipal wells. They found low levels of methane and hydrocarbons, including diesel, in the groundwater.
Although the chemical levels did not exceed drinking water standards, the EPA felt there was cause for concern and advised Pavillion residents to use alternate water sources. (Currently, natural gas drilling company Encana delivers a water supply for 21 households in the area.) The federal agency moved to the next stage of testing, drilling two monitoring wells and analyzing waste pits for possible contamination. The EPA investigation ultimately yielded evidence of benzene, xylenes and hydrocarbon in the Pavillion's groundwater.
The report resulting from the EPA's Wyoming investigation is the first to analyze multiple, on-the-ground samples to determine the impact of fracking on underground water resources in areas of oil and gas development. The report is a draft of a comprehensive study the EPA study scheduled for release late 2012.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took on fracking, pushing for U.S. studies as to whether the process is hazardous to humans and food sources. After all, tainted water isn't good for drinking or for agricultural integrity in America; contaminated crops would endanger all of our backyards.
Oh thats okay.....they can just add that 'antiflammatory' to it, ......you know the same one thats already in soft drinks.
There sorted.....(see me dusting my hands and trotting off to watch the wind wreck my garden,a far more important crisis)