Hopeland area testing update
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) is investigating soil gas contaminants in the Hopeland area near Chinchilla.
The presence of particular gases, such as hydrogen, at unexpected levels has been identified in soil at depths below two metres at a number of locations. EHP is advised that the gases are associated with combustion processes and are not associated with coal seam gas development. These gases have not been detected above undisturbed ground surfaces or in the air.
EHP’s investigation is ongoing and further testing will help to better characterise the extent of contamination.
Excavation caution zone
In February 2015, EHP established an excavation caution zone (or ‘ECZ’). The ECZ remains in place. The advice in relation to the ECZ is that caution should be exercised during activities that may encounter hazardous gas contaminants, such as excavations or trenching works below depths of two metres or more from the surface. View a map of the ECZ.
EHP is advised that because the gases are found at depth in the soil, immediate impacts to grazing animals and stock are considered very unlikely. To provide further certainty, EHP and its independent experts commenced specific assessments of air, soil, surface water and ground water on landholder properties within the ECZ in addition to the ongoing soil gas sampling being undertaken.
Queensland Health advised that the results of testing undertaken on Chinchilla’s town water supply in 2015 were all within the range of historical data for each water quality parameter, or within the expected range for surface water in Queensland. Queensland Health further advised there was nothing in the water quality data that would indicate a health risk from Chinchilla’s treated drinking water or that additional testing of the treated water was necessary.
In March 2015, DSITI conducted an extensive air quality sampling program as part of EHP’s Hopeland investigation. The monitoring program did not find any evidence of subsoil gases leading to unsafe levels of air pollutants in the community. This suggests that any surface emissions of the soil gases that may be occurring are likely to be gradual and quickly diluted by surrounding air to very low levels. These findings have been published by DSITI in the Air Quality Investigation Hopeland and Chinchilla March 2015 report.
In December 2015, further air quality tests were undertaken by EHP and DSITI. Results of the air testing completed on individual properties have been communicated to those property owners and DSITI is in the process of finalising its subsequent report which will put the results into a regional context. DSITI air quality experts have assessed all results and have advised EHP that no contaminants have been detected at levels of concern. This finding reaffirms that the soil gas contamination has not had a detectable impact on ambient air quality. Tests conducted throughout 2015 support the conclusion that surface soils, surface waters and ambient air are unaffected. Tests performed on groundwater sampled from landholder bores and the Condamine River and Chinchilla Weir during 2015 also identified no associated impact.
If your property is within the ECZ shown in the ECZ map and you have concerns, please contact the department. In particular, you should consider contacting EHP prior to excavation or any other activity likely to occur two metres or deeper in the ground. This will allow EHP to assess your property and potentially prioritise testing your location to establish whether gas contaminants are present in the soil profile.
Any person seeking further information should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Queensland Government decision on UCG
On 18 April 2016, the Queensland Government made an announcement prohibiting underground coal gasification activities in Queensland.
Information can be accessed from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines website.
The decision does not affect Linc Energy Limited and Carbon Energy Limited’s existing obligations to undertaking decommissioning and rehabilitation.