Belfast water supply at risk

The Belfast Telegraph have reported that there is risk that local water supplies that feed the City of Belfast run risk of contamination by Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction (USGE) practices proposed for the area.

The USGE project being carried out by company ‘Infrastrata’ will be taking place 380meters from Woodburn Reservoir, Carrickfergus.

Ms. Joyce, a local campaigner told the telegraph:

“The Woodburn reservoir outside Carrickfergus supplies Dorisland Water Works, which feeds water to over 1,900 streets, from Ballycarry right down to Belfast city centre.

“Following a freedom of information request we received a map showing exactly where the water from the reservoir goes. It supplies hospitals, health centres, schools, offices, residential areas and all the eateries in central Belfast.

“We feel that the drill potentially could contaminate the water supply and everyone supplied by it should be aware of this.

“A motion has been tabled for debate in the City Hall at 5pm on Tuesday, proposed by the Green Party and seconded by the Ulster Unionist Party.

South Woodburn Resivoir. According to population review, the greater belfast area has a population of approx. 585,000 inhabitants, making it the 11th largest conurbation in the UK. (image source: doeni.co.uk)
South Woodburn Reservoir. According to population review, the greater Belfast area has a population of approx. 585,000 inhabitants, making it the 11th largest conurbation in the UK. (image source: doeni.co.uk)

“We lobbied hard for this debate to go ahead and are hopeful that it will raise even more awareness of the potential hazard the drill could pose.”

Woodburn Reservoir supplied 705 streets across Belfast, 532 streets in Carrickfergus, 576 in Newtownabbey, 59 in Larne, 80 in Whitehead, four in Ballycarry and one street in Antrim.

Ms Joyce added: “The decision to grant InfraStrata rights to drill 380 metres from our water was made without consultation.

“The right to participate and be informed is being violated. The risks of exploratory drilling are detailed and well documented and it appears that the need for intense scrutiny in relation to this sensitive site has been avoided.”

The debate is to take place in Belfast City Hall tomorrow, 1st September 2015.

The Telegrapgh further reported: “However, Infrastrata says it is committed to the project and is in discussions with a number of other parties to secure the £2.8m lost by Larne Oil and Gas pulling out. Infrastrata also said that all the “regulatory approvals and other permits” were in place for work to begin this winter, but the company added that the timing depended on getting a drilling slot for the rig and completing the funding.”

To read the article in full, click here.

Fracking explosion kills 70,000 fish

A fracking explosion that occurred in Ohio last year (June 2014) ended up killing 70,000 fish in what appears to be a series of unfortunate events that would make even Lemony Snicket blush.

The Ohio disaster serves as a stark reminder of the fact that with fracking accidents, the damage created can be quite difficult to bring to a halt, even despite our best efforts of regulation and mitigation.
The Ohio disaster serves as a stark reminder of the fact that with fracking accidents, the damage created can be quite difficult to bring to a halt, even despite our best efforts of regulation and mitigation.

The event started at 9am, June 28th 2014, with a break in a hydraulic line that sprayed fracking chemicals over nearby hot machinery.This in turn caused an estimated 20 trucks to catch fire, leading to 30 recorded explosions

The fracking well was allowed to leak for a full 15 hours allowing flow back fluid to emit into a tributary of Opossum creak, until the wells closure at midnight.

The fires themselves were burning for seven days, despite the best efforts of local fire services who fought to extinguish the flames.

The incident is a sobering reminder to the environmental risks posed by shale gas extraction operations, where both fracking companies and governments have fought to sooth public opinion on the dangers of unconventional shale gas extraction.

The Ohio explosion, or explosions as it were, lead to the death of around 70,000 fish and also facilitated the deaths of salamanders, frogs and crayfish through the exposure of flow back fluids that were estimated to travel 5 miles from the epicentre, falling short of the main Ohio River.

Opossum Creek leads into the Ohio River, 1.7 miles upstream from public drinking waters for West Virginian residents. Officials say that no drinking water was contaminated by the tragedy.

Kentucky fracked fish?

Nami Resources Company, a Kentucky based Oil and Gas Company have pleaded guilty to charges that infringed both the Clean Water Act and Endangered species Act after it was found that a 2007 fracking waste water spill led to the deaths of several species of fish in the area.

They were fined $50,000 for the incident.

The fracking waste water originated from four of their fracking well sites into the Acorn Fork Creek in south-eastern Kentucky. Soon after, the majority of the fish in the area died, including those that belonged to two endangered species.

Chrosomus cumberlandensis, otherwise known as the 'Blackside Dace', was one of teh endangered species of fish negatively affected by the incident.
Chrosomus cumberlandensis, otherwise known as the ‘Blackside Dace’, was one of the endangered species of fish negatively affected by the incident.

Researchers studied water samples and the bodies of the dead fish, and concluded that the fracking spillage had lead to an acidification of the water, and resulted in the fish genocide, with the deceased fish showing signs of gill lessons, liver and spleen damage.

The research into the incident formed the basis of the 2013 peer reviewed study here.

 

Concerned health professionals of New York release fracking compendium

The Concerned Health Professionals of New York just released a compendium that compiles a significant body of scientific, medical and journalistic findings that highlight the experienced health risks associated with the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction.

CHPNY

One of the most thorough reports of its kind, the compendium draws upon scientific evidence and experience from across the globe, including USA, Canada and Australia, where Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction has been most predominant, drawing upon information provided by medical journals such as The Lancet, the British Medical Journal and the Medical Journal of Australia.

Topics covered by the compendium include:

  • Air Contamination
  • Water Contamination
  • Engineering Problems
  • Radioactive releases
  • Occupational Health and Safety Hazards
  • Noise pollution, light pollution and stress
  • Earthquakes and Seismic Activity
  • Abandoned wells
  • Flood risks
  • Threats to Agriculture and soil quality
  • Threats to the Climate
  • Inaccurate job claims, increased crime
  • Inflated oil and gas reserves
  • Medical and scientific calls for more study

A compilation of studies and findings from around the globe, the compendium provides irrefutable evidence of the risks, harms, and associated negative trends demonstrated by the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, a process earmarked for County Fermanagh.

To read the compendium in full, click here.

A beginner’s guide to fracking: 3 fracking and fishing

As local knowledge about the potential impacts of fracking grows, fishermen in Co. Fermanagh and beyond are becoming increasingly concerned that fracking poses a serious risk to the future of fishing in the county.

fish2

Lough Melvin
Lough Melvin is recognised as a rare and delicate eco-system and has been designated as an ASSI and also a SAC and requires special protection.
– a game fishery with a ‘no stocking’ policy.
– one of the few remaining wild brown trout and salmon fisheries in Europe and home to a healthy migratory run of wild Atlantic Salmon.
– the only Lough in Northern Ireland to have a population of Arctic Char.
– home to three distinct species of trout – Sonaghan, Gilaroo anf Ferox.
Sonaghan is genetically unique to Lough Melvin and has inhabited these waters for over a million years. Research has shoown that the DNA imprint of the Sonaghan matched no other fish in the brown trout family anywhere in the world.

Lough MacNean
Lough MacNean is classified as a course fishery with excellent stocks of Bream, Perch, Rudd Roach Hybrids and Pike.
– Catches in excess of 20lbs recorded from Lough MacNean.
– It holds a stock of quality brown trout that run its two main rivers to spawn and reproduce ie. the blackwater and Glenfarne rivers.

Lough Erne
– The Erne system consists of Upper and Lower Lough Erne and has a world class reputation for course and game angling.
– Lower Lough Erne is a large expanse of water, over 25 miles long.
– Lower Lough Erne is famous for Mayfly fishing.
– Upper Lough Erne is one of teh finest pike fishing lakes in Europe and links to the Shannon system, the largest river system in the British Isles.

fish1

Potential risks to fishing from fracking
– A network of 20 small loughs and 150 streams rivers extend over a radius of 25km from Lough Melvin and Lough MacNean catchment areas. Six km uphill from Lough Melvin is the centre of the frack zone.
– This network of waterways is the lifeline for fish stocks – eg salmon run these rivers to spawn and reproduce with the young fry residing in the rivers for two to three years.
– Millions fo gallons of water are required to frack a single well; where will where will the water come from to frack 1440 wells and where will it end up?
– Flow-back fluid from fracked wells will contain toxically high levels of salt and other chemicals. If this fluid leaks into surrounding streams and rivers there will be large scale, long term contamination.
– If spawning streams and rivers are contaminated, fish stocks and aquatic life will be killed. The diminished fish stocks and risk to indigenous species may be so severe that our lakes and rivers may never recover.

Fishing and the local economy
– Anglers come to Fermanagh from all over the world to enjoy a unique fishing experience in clean waters and tranquil rural setting.
– There are 4 major competitions held annually:
1) The classic Fishing Festival
2) The World Pairs Fishing Festival
3) The Pike Classic
4) The Lough Melvin Open Trout Angling Championship
Annually, these events attract 1000 anglers from across Europe to Fermanagh.
– Local clubs host a further 8-10 fishing competitions each year which bring significant benefits to rural areas.
– Almost 3000 angling licenses are sold in Co. Fermanagh annually, 85% of the total NI
sales, generating direct revenue in excess of 178,000GBP.
– In 2005, teh angling industry alone was identified as underpinning 778 full-time jobs in Fermanagh.

To download this information as a printable pdf, visit our flyers page.

Fracking in Fermanagh – the film

The premiere of the film Fracking in Fermanagh: What could it mean?, made by local young people and facilitated by the Development Media Workshop, was a  great success.  As Meadhbh Monahan writes in this week’s Impartial Reporter:

“The Ardhowen Theatre was sold out on Tuesday night with gasps and angry exclamations heard in reaction to what was shown on screen.

The film narrator explains that Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster was approached twice for an interview but declined. This was met by boos and shouting from the crowd. During a panel discussion after the film, Enniskillen actor Ciarán McMenamin said: “It’s good to see that our young people have our interests at heart, even if our politicians do not.”

The majority of Fermanagh folk are not aware of the magnitude of what fracking involves, the audience heard.

 

Tamboran Resources plans to create 60 fracking pads in Fermanagh (each pad will be about seven acres in size, and concreted), one mile apart, covering 40,000 acres.

“This will have a terribly detrimental affect” on Fermanagh changing it from a scenic, rural area into a heavily industrialised zone dotted with frack pads, the audience heard.

During the film, local farmer John Sheridan, who lives in the shadow of Cuilcagh mountain, says that chemicals brought up from deep underground during the fracking process are very likely to spill into our ground water, thereby leaking into our lakes and rivers and subsequently into our food chain. These chemicals could also evaporate from ponds on the frack sites, causing air pollution.

He is backed up by Jessica Ernst who says: “They are bringing up unknowns that have been locked underground for millennia,” including naturally occurring heavy metals and radioactive materials such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, thorium and uranium (all carcinogens which can cause cancer and respiratory diseases in humans). Air may also be contaminated by volatile chemicals released during drilling (combustion from machinery and transport) and from other operations, during methane separation or by evaporation from holding ponds, Jessica Ernst points out.

John Sheridan concludes: “Farming or fracking; it’s going to be one or the other.”

A major problem is fracking waste, the film continues. This wastewater not only contains the toxic and hazardous chemicals used in fracking fluid but also contains contaminants that it picks up from deep within the earth, most notably heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, salty brine and radioactive materials.

“In Alberta, money was given to farmers to spread this waste on their land,” Jessica Ernst says. Photos of this waste spreading process were met by gasps of shock by the audience. “What becomes of the drilling waste is a big hole in the story that fracking companies are not telling us,” she states.

Belcoo father-of-five Sean Sweeney tells film-makers that he needs to feed his family so he was initially happy to hear of the potential fracking jobs coming to Fermanagh. However, after researching the process, he says: “No way. These people are dealing with toxic waste and chemicals. Why would I expose myself and my family to that?” He says if Fermanagh allows Tamboran to frack, locals will have ruined the landscape for future generations and will have noone to blame but themselves. He received laughs and applause when he quipped that the new Ulster Way brochures would have to state: “Here’s your gas mask, mind the lorries and enjoy your walk!”

Terry McGovern Chairman of the Lough Melvin Anglers Association is worried about copious amounts of water being taken from Lough Melvin and then pumped back in. “What state is it going to be in?” He worries that the approximate 700-800 jobs in the local fishing industry could be jeopardised if fracking gets the go-ahead.

Local caver Tim Fogg takes viewers to St. Patrick’s Holy Well in Belcoo where water rises from an underground spring at 45 litres per second. He points out that very little is known about where these springs originate, adding: “It doesn’t add up that you can just move into the area and drill without knowledge of the hydrology of the area.”

Canadian environmental scientist Jessica Ernst, who has experienced fracking near her farm in Alberta for the past 10 years, says: “I thought not being able to trust my drinking water was the worst affect of fracking but it’s the division of the community. The promise of money to some makes them obedient. I have witnessed heartbreaking betrayals on neighbours. Rural communities no longer take care of themselves as they used to. Whereas before they could fix the roof of their community centre themselves, now they are running to the company looking for money. There’s a loss of pride.”

She also warns farmers of the “dire impact” of fracking, saying: “Be careful what you believe. Farmers in Alberta had to fight for the money they were promised.” In addition, farmers in Alberta were left liable for the gas mitigation from frack sites, meaning they could not use the land once the frackers left, but were still responsible for the clean up.”

To read the article in full, please follow the link below:

Film premiere outlines ‘devastating’ effects of fracking on rural communities / Impartial Reporter / News / Roundup.

If you haven’t seen the film yet, would like to see it again, or would like to recommend it to others, it is now available to view online at  www.frackinginfermanagh.info/

 

 

Farmers express fracking fears

Our recent Fracking awareness meetings in Florencecourt and Cashel have been well attended by local people including many from the farming community. There was also a good turnout of fishermen at the Cashel meeting.

Farmers were particularly concerned about the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on the local agri-food industry. These small businesses are dependent on quality production to maintain their position in this niche market.   The slightest suggestion of contamination of beef or milk could mean financial ruin.  Speaking after the meeting Dr Carroll O’Dolan, spokesperson for FFAN, noted that where the farming community are struggling to survive in the current economic climate “even the perception of contamination could destroy the local agri-food industry”. At the end of the Cashel meeting committee members of the Garrison-Lough Melvin Anglers Association spoke of their concerns about fracking and its impact on the fishing on the famous waters of Lough Melvin.

 

Farmers who had diversified into tourism were equally anxious.  They spoke of huge personal and public investments in Fermanagh’s tourism industry.  This investment has created a brand recognised both nationally and internationally – ‘Fermanagh welcomes you naturally’.  But will tourists still want to come here if Fermanagh loses its green and clean image to become one of concrete, heavy industry and heavy traffic? If there is a long term risk of water contamination and/or toxic chemicals getting into the food chain how will our fishing and Lakelands fare?  There is a real concern that secure jobs in Fermanagh’s tourism industry could be under threat if ‘fracking’ is allowed to go ahead to be replaced by short term “potential” jobs.

Looking ahead, many were concerned about what happens when the extraction process is over.  “Industrialised land” covered with concrete and contaminated with chemicals both above & below ground, cannot be farmed; indeed the landowners may find themselves responsible for difficult and expensive clean-up operations.

Other farmers were downright angry; if they are strictly regulated and penalised if they deviate from DARD & DOE regulations, then why were four exploration licenses for shale gas and oil extraction issued in Northern Ireland with very little consideration as to the impacts on health, the environment, the rural way of life and no public consultation?

Fracking for unconventional gas and oil is a relatively new technology which is causing much controversy around the world and has been banned or put on hold in many regions.  It is significantly different from fracking for conventional gas & oil reserves, which has been used for the last sixty years. The British Geological Survey has concluded that fracking was the likely cause of the recent earthquakes near Blackpool, and that these earthquakes were between 10-100 times stronger than the usual low-level seismic activity that can normally occur in that area. A recent poll in the Guardian newspaper showed that 68.3% of respondents were opposed to fracking in the UK.

Closing the meeting in Florencecourt Dr O’Dolan said “We don’t know the long term impact that fracking will have on our health and the environment thus the precautionary principle should apply. The Governments should wait for the outcome of the very detailed studies being carried out in the USA & Europe, and both due for release in 2014. The ‘Sure we’ll see how it goes, if it turns out bad we’ll stop’ attitude is too dangerous.”