Concerns about Linc Energy’s experimental UCG testing site near Chinchilla are circulating in the media once again as the company faces legal prosecution by the State Government.
A report by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) alleged that high pressure coal seam fracturing has resulted in irreversible soil acidification at the site, as well as explosive levels of hydrogen and methane.
However Western Downs regional Mayor, Ray Brown, says that there is no new evidence to suggest risks to Chinchilla residents since a report by Gilbert and Sutherland was presented to landowners and stakeholders two months ago.
After testing the air, water and soil, the report concluded that there were no immediate threats to people in the region.
“My understanding is… there’s nothing new in relation to the safety of our residents or environment, both above and below ground, cropping or livestock,” says Councillor Brown.
While two former employees of Linc Energy claim that health concerns prompted them to resign from the company, Linc Energy said that it had not received any health complaints since 2008.
Other reports alleged that four DEHP investigators were admitted to hospital with fears of gas poisoning after soil testing.
An investigation commissioned by Linc Energy following these allegations concluded that there was a lack of casual evidence to suggest that the health concerns of DEHP work parties were the result of exposure to the UCP testing site.
It is not yet clear whether the affected investigators were testing on-site or within the excavation exclusion zone.
“There’s a big difference between on-site and somewhere in the 300 square kilometres and my understanding is that there is no contamination of land or water on any of the properties that surround the site,” says Councillor Brown.
“Our number one priority is the safety of our residents and the safety of our environment.”
With legal proceedings underway, Councillor Brown has urged the state Government to provide factual information to the local community and citizens were briefed about the ongoing investigations into the UCG site at a Chinchilla community consultation meeting in May.
“All we’re after for our community is the truth from both sides – both from the Government and the company,” he says.