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An overview of possible impacts from coal seam gas development in Northern Rivers, New South Wales
by Elfian Schieren, 2012

1. Introduction
2. Energy and coal seam gas development
2.1 Economic viability underpinning coal seam gas development
2.2 Renewable, sustainable energy development
- Solar
- Wind
- Biogas
2.3 Coal seam gas development at a global scale
2.4 Coal seam gas development in Australia
3 Coal seam gas extraction process
- Drilling and dewatering
- Hydraulic Fracturing
- Produced Water
4 Risks to water resources from coal seam gas development
4.4 Ground water use
4.5 Water produced by coal seam gas
4.6 Contamination of Groundwater
5 Other Consequences of coal seam gas development
5.4 Impacts to agricultural production
5.5 Health impacts on humans and animals
5.6 Impacts on greenhouse gas emissions
5.7 Impacts on seismic activity
5.8 Economic impacts
5.9 Cumulative impacts
6 Potential for coal seam gas development in Northern Rivers, New South Wales
6.1 Northern Rivers Region
6.2 Using trade-offs and opportunity costs in evaluating CSG development
6.3 Prospects for development in Northern Rivers region
6.4 Energy development in Northern Rivers region
6.5 Northern Rivers community actions and groups in response to CSG development
7 Discussion
8 Conclusion
9 References

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An overview of possible impacts from coal seam gas development in Northern Rivers, New South Wales

Integrated Project by Elfian Schieren, 2012

5.2 Health impacts on humans and animals

There is considerable community concern over health risks to livestock and domestic animals likely to come into close contact with CSG infrastructure in their pastures.

Bamberger and Oswald (2012) conducted one of the only studies on this issue in the USA.

Their research illustrated strong associations with impacts to animal and human health caused by contact with high production wells, pipeline leaks, improper wastewater disposal (dumped on road and property), well flaring, storm water runoff from well site, fraccing spill, drilling fluid spill and leaking holding ponds.

These include gastrointestinal, reproduction and dermatological irritation, upper respiratory irritation and failure, burning of eyes, headache, neurological, musculoskeletal and urological damage and sudden death (Bamberger and Oswald, 2012). During this study two direct impact situations where recorded.

One involved the spilling of hydraulic fluids into a cow pasture that killed 17 cows in one hour; the second was the result of a faulty valve on a barrel containing hydraulic fluid which leaked into a pasture causing the goats within to experience reproductive defects for the next two years (Bamberger and Oswald, 2012).

Seven cattle farms were involved in the study and all showed the same trend that at least 50% of the herd was affected by death or inability to produce live born calves when contacted with contaminated water.

Necropsies revealed liver, kidney and respiratory failure as the main causes of death.

Petroleum hydrocarbons were found in the small intestine, lesions to lung, trachea, liver and kidneys suggested exposure to other toxicants (Bamberger and Oswald, 2012).

In two separate cases a control and experimental group was inadvertently provided when one herd of cattle was exposed to creek water contaminated by CSG produced water and another herd were in other pastures with separate water source.

In both cases results showed that in the experimental group around 35% died and 36% experienced reproductive problems compared to 0% in the control group (Bamberger and Oswald, 2012).

Other cases reported and confirmed by medical physicians include arsenic heavy metal poisoning of children and dogs using contaminated bore water.

Mobilisation of heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and radioactive substances from the coal seam are thought to occur in addition to chemicals from fraccing and drilling (Bamberger and Oswald, 2012).

Research on the health risks from air contamination concludes that residents within half a mile of gas wells risk sub-chronic health effects to neurological and respiratory systems from exposure to aliphatic hydrocarbons, trimethylbenzenes and butadienes (McKenzie et al. 2012).

A citizen based study in the USA revealed high levels of carcinogenic chemicals including benzene and acrylonitrile at 3 to 3000 times higher than safe levels in CSG areas.

This report states that the companies involved in exploration and production are exempt from two key provisions of the Clean Air’s Act National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants and are therefore able to avoid complying with public health standards (Larson et al., 2011).

The same study revealed that families in areas around gas wells reported rotten egg smells followed by headaches, nosebleeds and rashes (Larson et al., 2011.

These symptoms coincide with symptoms reported by nine different families 19 living in Tara, QLD near CSG wells who are suffering nose bleeds, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, sore eyes and rashes.

These families also report smelling gas on their properties (Climate Spectator, 2012).


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