Thursday, 8 December 2011

Water quality hazards and toxicity under the Murray-Darling Proposed Basin Plan



Barmah-Millewa Campaign 
Friends of the Earth Melbourne







Above: the rivers, birds and fish of the Murray-Darling system are at risk of toxic mining water discharge
Friends of the Earth has again broken a key story highlighting just how dangerous the draft Basin Plan might be.

FoE recently discovered through Freedom of Information that NSW secretly lobbied the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to 
dramatically increase the amount of groundwater extraction so that mining industries could have access to more water. This not only means potential ecological disaster from salty groundwater being discharged into surface rivers but we have now found that even "treated water" discharged during coal seam gas mining exploration has high levels of toxic chemicals. 

FoE commissioned scientific testing of water in the Bohena Creek in north-west NSW where company Santos is exploring for Coal Seam Gas. Down stream of the company's water discharge, levels of ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide, lithium, cyanide, bromide and boron were excessively elevated - ammonia levels were found to be three times drinking water standards. 

The draft Basin Plan has also recommended a change in water quality targets  - saying they now only need to be "aspirational" - so as mining companies get a big boost in water access, the toxic water they discharge only has to meet "aspirational" targets under the Basin Plan. Over 3 million people in rural communities and much of Adelaide rely on Murray-Darling basin water for drinking and farming - and the draft Basin Plan puts them all at risk.

Fears CSG treated water could threaten Murray-Darling: ABC online
 "The major concern was the ammonia. It was at three times drinking water standards. And it can have a major impact on aquatic life, particularly fish. It makes it very, it has major impacts on fish health."CSG polluting Murray Darling: Nine News
"In its present form, the draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan will do nothing to protect our creeks and rivers from coal seam gas discharge water and its damaging impacts. One has to ask whether the weak 'aspirational' water quality targets in the draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan were designed to appease this powerful, dangerous mining industry," she said in a statement.

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