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Chemicals: water-related risks to environmental health

Coal seam gas extraction and coal mining may potentially use or release chemicals into the environment. These chemicals could be toxic to aquatic and terrestrial organisms or affect water quality, which could also adversely impact on human health. The toxicity of chemicals must be evaluated in order to properly understand and manage the risks.

Coal seam gas extraction and coal mining may also inadvertently mobilise naturally occurring underground chemicals and bring them to the surface in co-produced water or mine discharge water.

As well as chemical and ecotoxicological investigations, this theme includes potential cross-contamination of drinking water and other water resources through the interconnection of previously isolated aquifers and surface waters.

Consideration will also be given to how these issues contribute to the overall cumulative impacts of coal seam gas extraction and coal mining, according to different scales (local-regional) and timeframes (tens to thousands of years).

Projects commissioned to date include:

Project title Project description
Background review -
hydraulic fracturing (‘fraccing’) techniques, including reporting requirements and governance arrangements

This review captures the state of knowledge on hydraulic fracturing issues associated with coal seam gas extraction, including:

National assessment of chemicals associated with coal seam gas extraction This project is being led by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme and aims to develop an understanding of the occupational, public health and environmental risks associated with chemicals either used in or mobilised by hydraulic fracturing for coal seam gas in an Australian context, providing an evidence base for determining the appropriate management framework for these chemicals as part of the broader management of coal seam gas activities.
Groundwater hydrochemical characterisation of the Surat region and Laura Basin - Queensland This project will include:
  • hydrochemical characterisation of groundwater (ionic, organic, gaseous, radiological and isotopic) within aquifers to determine baseline conditions
  • comparison of groundwater quality data to relevant water quality guidelines (ANZECC/ARMCANZ 2000; NHMRC/NRMMC 2011)
  • identification of knowledge and hydrochemistry data gaps pertaining to potential coal seam gas development in the Surat Region and Laura Basin.