Assurance from AGL

BRUCE Robertson, an analyst turned local farmer, holds grave fears for the safety of the Gloucester locals as AGL moves closer to fracking four coal seam gas wells at Waukivory near Gloucester.

"These are just 300 metres from people's homes," he said.

Bruce has done considerable research into the project and discovered that at the same project in 2004 there was a gas blow out 300 metres from a well. 

Fracking involves using water and chemicals under extreme pressure (3000 psi) to crack the coal seam and allow the gas to flow. "The wells at Waukivory are right on the main fault that lies in the valley. There are some 50 homes within two kilometres of AGL's wells and the project is just 600m from the Forbesdale rural residential estate," Bruce said.

An AGL spokesperson said the incident referred to was prior to AGL's involvement in the area. 

"It was noted in our environmental assessment of 2009 and mitigation activities are now planned to avoid any similar incident in the future. Once the bore was sealed there have been no further issues," the spokesperson said.

"AGL can assure the community that we will be working closely with the mining industry and the Office of Coal Seam Gas to identify all former coal exploration bore holes and to ensure all well bore holes are identified, properly cemented and sealed prior to any fracture stimulation or flow testing proposed in the Waukivory pilot program. This will include cementing off nine small diameter core holes drilled by earlier mining companies (1970 and 1980s) which were not cemented and sealed." 

Bruce is not convinced this will be enough and he said the risk to human life is just too great. 

"AGL is fracking these wells in a densely settled area. Families and farmers will be working and living within close proximity to the four wells at Waukivory," he said.

"Many locals may be using naked flames such as gas hot water systems, gas cooktops or indeed a farmer out welding."

Bruce believes there should be a considerable buffer zone around these wells where there are no residents. 

"There has already been gas leaking some 300m from the well head not at some distant location such as Roma or Chinchilla in Queensland, not overseas, but right here at Gloucester," Bruce said. 

AGL said the application for the Waukivory pilot program was made and approved prior to the NSW Government introducing the SEPP legislation, which "restricts coal seam gas operations from within two kilometre of residential and critical industry clusters." 

"Everywhere we work, AGL commits the same level of operational rigor. So wherever you are, you get the same level of safety."

For Bruce the fact remains these wells are being fracked just 300m from people's homes and he would like AGL to take the initiative to take its drilling a safer distance from residential areas despite what its documentation allows.

"Surely, a company of AGL's stature would not wish to risk the lives of locals?" he said.

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