Arsenic detected in Pilliga State Forest: Opposition calls on O'Farrell to suspend coal seam gas exploration

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The O'Farrell Government should immediately suspend all Coal Seam Gas exploration licences following reports that toxic chemicals have been detected in soil samples taken from the Pilliga State Forest – believed to be the result of a leak from a CSG operation in June last year.

"More than 10,000 litres of polluted water spilled into the Pilliga State Forest in June and the O'Farrell Government appears to have done nothing to investigate the spill – or stop the company from operating," said Opposition Leader, John Robertson.

"Now it has been left to an independent environment group to reveal that arsenic, chromium, nickel, sodium and chloride have all been detected in the soil at the site where the spill occurred.

"The O'Farrell Government has an obligation to fully investigate this spill, and if the company has been found to have done the wrong thing – it should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

"The Bohena Creek system in the Pilliga Forest leads into the Murray Darling Basin and the long term consequences of continued spills like this could be devastating.

"It is clear the O'Farrell Government can't be trusted to protect the environment and ensure precious water resources aren't damaged by Coal Seam Gas mining.

"For months now, I have been calling on Barry O'Farrell to immediately suspend all Coal Seam Gas exploration licences in NSW until we can be sure the practice is safe.

"This leak of 10,000 litres of polluted water occurred, not at a designated 'extraction' site, but under a Coal Seam Gas exploration licence.

"Barry O'Farrell needs to heed the warning from scientists, experts and local communities and suspend all Coal Seam Gas exploration licences in NSW from today.

"The impacts of Coal Seam Gas mining on the environment are still not fully understood and the Government needs to hit the pause button on this industry before it's too late."

Shadow Minister for the Environment Luke Foley said the incident confirms Robyn Parker has failed to empower the environmental regulator to crack down on major polluters.

"Environment Minister Robyn Parker has made great claims about the effectiveness of the EPA under the O'Farrell Government – but this incident proves the polluters are getting away with murder," said Mr Foley

"We have heard nothing from the Environment Minister Robyn Parker about whether or not the Environment Protection Agency is investigating the incident in the Pilliga Forest, and what action will be taken against the company.

"The Pilliga is the largest temperate woodland left in Australia and it deserves to be protected."