Linc Energy's pilot plant near Chinchilla.
Linc Energy's pilot plant near Chinchilla. Contributed

Linc Energy to fight toxic gas leak claims

LINC Energy says it will refute all claims that it allowed toxic gas to leak uncontrollably from its Chinchilla plant into air, soil and water, causing workers to fall ill with bleeding noses, dizziness and vomiting.

Linc Energy, which operated a coal gasification plant in Chinchilla until it was decommissioned in 2013, is locked in a legal battle with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection over accusations the plant wilfully and unlawfully caused serious environmental harm.

A Linc Energy spokesman said they were preparing their defence and that the company planned to fight the claims.

He said there had been no gas leaks at the plant and that no staff members had reported medical conditions to the company.

"The accusations that are being made are incorrect, are misleading, and they hurt us," he said.

"We are still waiting for communication from the department as to what and where they have detected these gases."

Linc Energy is accused of releasing syngas and by-products including benzene, toluene and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, soil and water between 2007 and 2013.

Court documents allege the company operated gasifiers at high pressure levels, which caused gas to escape uncontrollably.

There are also allegations of a fire within a gasifier in 2007 where an increase in pressure caused cracking, allowing gas to escape. It is alleged the company did not report this to the Government, as required by law.

Documents also allege another incident occurred in 2010 where another gasifier had an increase in hydrostatic pressure, causing the well to fracture and water to pour out.

There were also claims staff had complained of "offensive odours" from five dams and that workers had also reported medical conditions of bleeding noses, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches and blurred vision.

The Linc Energy spokesman said the exclusion zone the department had issued around Chinchilla encompassed 320sq km, while their site only made up 1 sq km.

"Our biggest question is how could the department categorically say these gases hadn't been from coal seam gas operations, when they are only preliminary results," the spokesman said.

He said they had been monitoring gas levels around the site and there had been no elevated levels.

The spokesman said the company was still waiting for the department to send them the completed prosecution brief for the court case, which he said was due by the end of January 2015.

It is likely the matter will be back before the courts about September.

- APN NEWSDESK



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