Comprehensive monitoring around former Linc site

Issued: 13 Nov 2022

Groundwater monitoring by the Department of Environment and Science (DES) has concluded that landholder bores surrounding the former Linc Energy site have not been impacted by Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) contaminants.

Since 2015, DES has conducted regular groundwater sampling of landholder bores, with more than 130 samples taken and analysed.

The results have been provided directly to landowners, most recently in late 2021.

The department rejects any suggestion that it has failed to comply with the notification requirements contained in the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

Linc Energy’s activities are known to have caused environmental harm, and the site is on the contaminated land register.

The investigation and prosecution of Linc Energy was the largest and most complex ever undertaken by the department.

In 2018, following a ten-week trial, Linc Energy was found guilty by a Brisbane jury of wilfully causing serious environmental harm.

It was fined $4.5 million, the highest penalty imposed by an Australian court for environmental offending.

The department installed groundwater monitoring bores at their former site, and other monitoring bores offsite to test for any potential contaminants.

More than 180 groundwater samples have been taken at the former Linc Energy site. UCG contaminants including benzene, naphthalene and cyanide were found during monitoring of bores on the former Linc site.

Groundwater monitoring bores were also installed on the Kummerows Road reserve, about 650 metres west of the boundary of the former Linc Energy site.

Sampling of these bores commenced in 2021 and four samples have been taken, showing the presence of UCG contaminants benzene and cyanide.

However, the analysis of the four samples indicates that the concentration of contaminants is trending down, and the likelihood of environmental harm arising is considered very low to negligible.

The department will continue to sample groundwater at the former Linc Energy site, and offsite to monitor groundwater quality trends, assess risks and provide those results to relevant landholders.

The successful 2018 prosecution and conviction of Linc Energy was followed by a lengthy contested committal process involving former Linc executives in 2020.

A Brisbane magistrate concluded there was sufficient evidence to commit those individuals to stand trial on charges of failing to ensure Linc complied with the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

However, the Court of Appeal ruled that, in effect, an executive officer had to be in office when the harm occurred, as opposed to when decisions were made which led to the harm.

To address this issue, the Queensland Government introduced the Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment (EPOLA) Bill following an extensive engagement process with conservation groups, the agriculture sector and the resources industry.

As part of the legislative updates for the EPOLA Bill, responsible directors and officers can be held liable where there is evidence of environmental wrongdoing or damage.

The department is currently conducting a full and robust assessment of Arrow Energy’s Environmental Authority (EA) application relating to their Hopeland Project on Petroleum Lease (PL) 253 which is in close proximity to the former Linc Energy Site.

Arrow Energy have been advised of the results of the groundwater bore monitoring program.