Alarm over groundwater contamination at Beharra Springs

FRIDAY, November 1, 2019: Lock the Gate Alliance has expressed grave concern at company reports showing that an evaporation pond at the Beharra Springs Gas facility, which overlies the Yarragadee Aquifer, has contaminated local groundwater supplies in the Mid-West of WA.

The details came to light in an environmental plan for the expansion of the gas facility, which is now owned by Beach Energy. The water contamination event took place as a result of gas activities by Origin Energy.

A spokesperson for Lock the Gate, Jane Hammond, said the contamination demonstrated how poor regulatory oversight could cause long term pollution issues.

“This gas facility overlies the Yarragadee aquifer, a vital water resource for Perth and beyond, yet we are only now learning that groundwater bores at the site had been detecting petroleum contaminants in the groundwater since at least 2005,” Ms Hammond said.

“The evaporation pond which was used to hold produced water, a by-product of onshore gas mining was only closed last year, at least 13 years after the leaks were first detected.

“Other equipment at the site including the oil and water separator was also found to be leaking pollutants onto the ground.

“Elevated levels of arsenic exceeding drinking water standards were found in one of the bores used for drinking water at the site. A report on this contamination in the Department of Water’s Contaminated Sites Register suggests that the elevated levels of arsenic were associated with the breakdown of the elevated hydrocarbon pollutants.

“This does not augur well for fracking in WA. This facility has so far dealt mainly with conventional gas and has managed to contaminate our groundwater. What will happen when fracking gets going in this region. Conventional gas mining is dirty enough and fracking is even more risky.

“We are seeing a massive ramp up of onshore gas mining across our Mid West food bowl  and a government decision that has greenlighted fracking in more than 12,000sqkm of the region.

“Water is our most precious resource. It is far more valuable than gas and yet it is being put at risk by a government that has shown scant regard for the real impacts of fracking or other forms of onshore gas development.

“The gas facility lies in the surface water sub-catchment for the Arrowsmith River and within a few kilometres of valuable groundwater springs,  the Beharra Springs and Mungenooka Springs.

“The Beharra Springs gas facility is undergoing a revamp to increase its capacity to cope with the rush to develop onshore gas in the region.

“The gas facility was declared a contaminated site in 2017 because of this pollution and a recommendation is in place that most groundwater bores at the site not be used.

“This incident should stand as a warning that we cannot trust the industry or its regulators to sound the alarm bells publicly when there is evidence of a contamination event, even when that contamination could impact on the groundwater on which we all depend.”

Timeline:

  • The contamination was known about as early as 2005 when results turned up on the groundwater monitoring. The facility was then owned by Origin Energy.
  • In 2007 it was listed as contaminated requiring investigation.
  • It then took until 2017 for the investigation to take place and for the department to register the site as Contaminated – restricted use.
  • In 2019 the details turn up in the Environmental Plan for an expansion of the site. The facility is being ramped up as part of the Mid West “Gas Rush” since the lifting of the fracking moratorium by the McGowan government.

Check out the Contaminated Sites Record for the Beharra Springs gas Facility here

Check out the Environmental Plan for the Beharra Springs Expansion (which details the contamination on page 20) here


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  • Simone van Hattem
    published this page in Media Releases 2019-11-04 14:57:30 +1100