Groundswell hits out over irrigation ‘trial’

OPPONENTS of AGL’s Gloucester Gas Project have hit out at the company over reports its blended water irrigation trial on a property south of Gloucester is not impacting the environment.

AGL announced last week that sampling on its Tiedmans property had shown water and soil quality had not been impacted by the irrigation trial.

But Groundswell Gloucester said it was far from convinced there was any reason for AGL to be optimistic about the outcome of the program.

Groundswell spokesman Jeff Kite, a retired water resources engineer, said the group was firmly of the belief that the project was not even a proper ‘trial’ because the program design was fatally flawed.

“AGL’s methodology for the trial is flawed. There are no controls or proper replications,” he said.

Groundswell said independent assessment by expert soil analyst David Marsten of AGL’s December reports had concluded salinity on the Tiedmans property had increased, contrary to the company’s reports.

“The soil scientist concluded that AGL’s results indicate that soil salinity has increased over the past six months in the top 60cm of soil,” Mr Kite said. 

“This increase is to be expected because adding salt to the type of soil at the Tiedmans site will result in salt accumulating over time.

“To claim that the soil has ‘showed significant improvement’ is also highly questionable. It would seem that the only real improvement relates to the large quantities of soil amendment that have been added to the site at great expense to AGL.

“It does not matter what the salt concentration in the water is because it does not get leached out; it just accumulates with each irrigation. 

“Salinity in the soil at Tiedmans has increased since the last report in July 2013. The last few months in 2013 were dry and much more water was irrigated and therefore more salt has been added to the soil.”

Mr Kite said a leaked EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) letter sent to the Department of Trade and Investment backed up Mr Marsten’s findings.

“The letter raises a lot of the issues that he raised in Groundswell Gloucester’s document ’Exposing the Risks’, published in December, although he had no knowledge of the letter,” Mr Kite said.

“A key paragraph in the EPA letter states while salt concentrations can be managed through dilution, without treatment the total load will remain the same. The salt load applied during irrigation will either accumulate in the soil profile, be leached to groundwater and-or runoff to surface water. There will be therefore a cumulative effect of the salt loads on the irrigation area and-or other water users and environmental values. Consequently, unless there is some treatment, it is unlikely that the long term irrigation of this water will be a sustainable proposition.”

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