Court hears Linc Energy workers warned to drink milk

THE committal hearing between Linc Energy and the State Government has finished its second day as the company defends itself from five charges of wilfully causing environmental damage.

The prosecution began by outlining multiple breaches of Linc Energy's policy regarding hydrostatic pressure at Gasifier 4, located near Hopeland, Chinchilla.

The court heard the statements detailing a grout injection program designed to fill widening fractures with cement, as well as guard wells.

Prosecution lawyer Ralph Devlin QC read out the correspondence of a site manager which explained how a blockage was pressurised to clear it out, resulting in a fractured guard well.

A company interview revealed that G4, the Chinchilla station, operated at pressures around 12 bar (174 pounds per square inch) for up to a month in its early stages.

When bubbles began to appear on the surface, "gravelly stuff was put over it…to stop it bubbling," the interview read.

Witnesses were called to give evidence before the court, including Paul John Bergin, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection agent leading the investigation into Linc Energy.

Mr Bergin said that after a dig on March 2, 2015, he felt nauseous and check into Chinchilla Hospital for testing.

He reported a dull headache which lasted for several hours and offered to provide blood results showing elevated carbon monoxide in his blood as a result of the incident.

He claimed to have previously submitted this information to Linc Energy.

When questioned by the defence lawyer Robert Bain QC on his refusal to participate in an investigative interview with Aussafe (a company hired by Linc Energy), Mr Bergin said he felt that his authority was being drawn into question.

"It wasn't what I took to be a simple, independent person, it wasn't Aussafe - it was Linc personnel, senior personnel, one of whom was quite assertive, who took charge of the whole process," he said.

Paul Boland, a contractor who was called to work gave evidence, saying he saw bubbles at the site, but reported no abnormal methane readings on his crew's tools after the job. Yesterday, the court heard workers manning the coal gasification project were warned to drink milk and eat yoghurt to protect their stomachs from being burnt by gas leaks.

The underground coal gasification test site was shut down in 2013.

The committal hearing before Magistrate Kay Ryan continues on Monday with the additional evidence of scientists involved in the investigation.

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