A report released today has highlighted the clear threat posed to Western Australia’s groundwater supplies by unconventional tight gas exploration and mining or ‘fracking’.
Report author Dr Ryan Vogwill said there are a growing number of examples showing serious impacts on groundwater in the US from fracking and there was concern among many of his peers of the risks, he urged other hydrogeologists to publicly voice their concerns.
“This provides a warning to other jurisdictions, particularly Western Australia, that serious impacts have occurred and are usually found by third parties,” he said.
Dr Vogwill said his report suggests that the McGowan Government block the industry from any on or under ground activity in WA until detailed independent investigations can prove unconventional gas and fracking can be done safely.
“In recent testimony at the Canadian Commission on Hydrofracturing one of the world’s most preeminent contamination hydrogeologists, Dr John Cherry, stated that that no place in the world was actually doing scientific monitoring of what happened to the substances that leaked from shale gas wells,” he said.
Diagrammatic representation of the stages of the hydraulic stimulation process (US EPA 2016).
“Hydraulic stimulation is irreversible however if there is no significant impact potential, this should be provable with detailed, extensive monitoring which does not exist according to international experts like Dr Cherry.
“Exploration alone has capacity to locally impact groundwater resources and the environment, including areas hydraulically connected to those sites through faults and other potential conduits.”
Dr Vogwill said the Whicher Range in the southern Perth Basin is a Western Australian example of the lack of certainty in methods used by unconventional gas proponents to investigate the risks to aquifers.
“A 2012 University of Western Australia, Curtin University and CSIRO led reanalysis of seismic data shows potential contamination routes (faults) from fracking target zones into important sub-surface water bodies in a priority surface water catchment and this differed in critical areas from the interpretations in the company led analysis in 2004,” he said.
“There is potential that some of the hundreds of thousands of litres of diesel and toxic chemicals used may have migrated into nearby aquifers as a result.
“We must have immediate bans in conservation estate and priority water areas like Gnangara Mound, Perth’s most important groundwater supply, where there are current exploration leases.”
Frack Free Futures WA convenor Jules Kirby said the clear message from the report was West Australians had every right to demand a total statewide ban on unconventional gas and fracking to protect water sources that fuel the West Australian food bowl and drinking supplies.
“Dr Vogwill isn’t just an internationally respected hydrogeologist, he’s an internationally respected West Australian hydrogeologist with 15+ years of experience in WA environmental and water management, this report should ring alarm bells for all of us that our water, health and environment are at risk from the dangerous and accident-prone fracking industry,” he said.
“The Yarragadee aquifer that supplies Perth with drinking water and water for agriculture, the Leseur Aquifer in the Midwest and the Canning Basin in the Kimberley all have gas exploration leases over them.
“Every major productive groundwater aquifer in WA is subject to exploration for unconventional gas and fracking and Dr Vogwill’s report shows that we have nowhere near the baseline data required to even consider fracking in WA.
“Good on WA Labor for its immediate permanent ban on unconventional gas and fracking from the Southwest to the Perth Hills regions, and its moratorium across the rest of the state pending an inquiry.
Mr Kirby said all eyes are now on Labor’s promised inquiry into the impacts of unconventional gas and fracking on WA’s water, health and the environment which will be informed by increasingly strong domestic as well as international evidence, and a growing army of communities united against the industry.
“With the Inquiry imminent, the case is stronger than ever for WA to follow Victoria’s lead with a permanent, State wide fracking ban,” he said.
Read the report: