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AGL cleared over CBM wastewater

World Coal,

The New South Wales (NSW) Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has found AGL Energy and its contractor, Transpacific Industries, were not in breach of pollution license conditions despite concerns they had ignored demands not to discharge wastewater from coalbed methane (CBM) wells into Hunter Water’s sewage network.

In the final months of last year, AGL fracked four wells in Gloucester on the mid-north coast as part of a pilot project to test for CBM.

The "flow-back water" flowback water from the drilling activities is contained and stored on site before being taken to a waste treatment facility.

In December it emerged that one of AGL's contractors, a waste treatment business called Transpacific, had discharged treated flow-back water into the sewer system at its site on Kooragang Island in Newcastle.

Hunter Water has released letters between it and AGL showing it had categorically rejected the energy company's plan to transport the flowback water its way. "Hunter Water will not be able to accept AGL's wastewater from hydraulic stimulation activities," the water agency wrote in February 2014.

The EPA launched an investigation and the agency's chief environmental regulator Mark Gifford said no breaches have been determined.

"The EPA has undertaken a thorough review of all of the information associated with this particular matter and has determined that there has been no breach of environment protection licence conditions or the protection of the Environment Protections Act," Gifford said.

"Liquid waste and other wastes associated with any activity - and that includes coal seam gas activities - must be properly, lawfully managed, stored, transported and disposed of and in this case our investigation and examination of material has shown there is no evidence that that hasn't occurred," Gifford added.

The EPA said in had "reminded AGL and Transpacific that any liquid waste must be discharged lawfully and in accordance with any directions from the receiver of the waste".

"The EPA has no evidence that there was any breach of environmental legislation or environment protection licence conditions from the release of the treated wastewater to the sewerage system," said Adam Gilligan, manager for EPA Hunter.

The EPA said it had no evidence of harm to the environment from the discharge of the treated wastewater to the sewer. "The flowback water was treated by Transpacific and Hunter Water, therefore any environmental impact is highly unlikely," a spokesman told Fairfax Media.

"We've been providing a safe and sustainable solution, which is supported by NSW EPA's review," a spokesman from Transpacific said.

AGL welcomed the EPA's comments.

"The investigation confirms AGL has had, and continues to have, proper arrangements in place for the lawful treatment and disposal of flowback water from the Waukivory Pilot Project near Gloucester," an AGL spokesman said.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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