Linc Energy is facing what is to be expected to be one of the nation’s largest environmental prosecutions after the most extensive investigation in the Environment Department’s history.
A court has heard how workers at Linc Energy’s underground coal gasification project were warned to drink milk and also to eat yoghurt to protect their stomachs from being burnt by acidic gases.
Prosecuting barrister, Ralph Devlin QC, also presented evidence that despite workers suffering from a myriad of gas exposure related symptoms, work was not stopped, this even despite physical notification of tar-smelling gas bubbling from the ground around a well.
Workers were provided gas detecting equipment, some of which sounded the alarm as soon as workers left their onsite accommodation.
Mr Devlin said that work on the site should have been stopped, but didn’t causing wilful and reckless environmental harm to the surrounding environment. The gases being released have been variously described as potentially cancer-causing, explosive and capable of causing asphyxiation.
In an interesting turn of events a key state government witness has backed down from claims the controversial gas plant had caused widespread soil contamination under cross-examination from defence barrister Robert Bain QC. It was conceded that it is impossible given the circumstances to directly link the high soil acidity found on site and in the Hopeland area to the activities of Linc Energy.
The hearing is continuing at this time with a final verdict originally expected for Friday the 20th of November expected to be pushed back following an expected request for extension by the defence.