GAS company AGL and council have reached an agreement to employ an independent scientist to conduct critical water studies in the Gloucester basin.
The scientist, who is yet to be appointed, will spend 18 months conducting studies over four key areas, including a baseline water survey of surface and groundwater assets in the basin; a flood study of the Gloucester and Avon rivers; a study on the management of produced water from AGL’s proposed CSG operations; and a peer review of AGL’s project water studies.
AGL has agreed to fully fund the project with council to appoint a scientist of its choosing.
“The agreement will provide funds for council to engage relevant scientific expertise to allow it to undertake major water studies, and for the results of this effort to be made directly available to council and the community,” council’s general manager Danny Green said in a statement.
“It will provide resources to enable council to take a far stronger role in protecting local water resources and ensure the community will be informed as water data is collected.”
The funding for the project will cover an 18-month period, but AGL has requested the studies be completed within a 10-month timeframe.
“That is a particular requirement of AGL to enable them to meet certain targets,” council’s Planning and Environment manager Graham Gardner said.
“The remaining time will be used to allow for a peer review of the studies.
“I’m not sure how easy it is going to meet the targets set out in the agreement, they appear to be quite ambitious, but there is a lot of goodwill in this.”
AGL said it was looking forward to working with council and the Gloucester community on the project.
“AGL recognises that independent scientific and environmental water studies have a major role in the management and regulation of the natural gas industry,” AGL’s head of Community Relations Upstream Gas Julie Delvecchio said.
“The council-appointed water environmental scientist will provide independent and informed analysis of the environmental-water considerations in the shire and greater transparency of AGL’s water studies.
“It will also provide a base line for regulation by local and State governments.
“AGL believes this independent scientific research program will also help build the public’s confidence and understanding of CSG activities in the Gloucester community and how it can operate safely side by side with farming, industry and other business operations.”
Early studies for the project will likely be completed before the end of the year.
“Council now has the capability to directly manage work that will give the community information we could not afford to obtain ourselves,” mayor John Rosenbaum said.
The work will occur in context with the federal government’s bioregional assessment of the Gloucester basin and also reflects the findings of the State’s Chief Scientist and Engineer Mary O’Kane who said there was inadequate independent comprehensive information available to the public on the potential impacts of CSG activities.
“The Gloucester community will now have information from federal government scientists and our own water scientist to effectively scrutinise the AGL studies and provide a basis on which future decision affecting our beautiful valley can be made,” Cr Rosenbaum said.