“Robust regulation not materialising”, say residents as Cuadrilla asked again to improve water management at Lancashire fracking site

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Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, 25 October 2017. Photo: Used with the owner’s permission

Campaigners against Cuadrilla’s shale gas operations near Blackpool have accused regulators of “repeatedly failing” to take action against company breaches.

Drone pictures from the past fortnight have shown a reoccurrence of flooding problems at the site off Preston New Road, Little Plumpton.

The problem has contributed to four breaches of the company’s environmental permit when water containing silt escaped from the pad. Campaigners have raised concerns that contamination from the pad has spread to neighbouring fields.

The Environment Agency has asked Cuadrilla several times to improve how it deals with rain water flooding but has taken no enforcement action on the issue.


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In a statement to DrillOrDrop today, the Environment Agency said:

“We are aware of standing water on the well pad at the Preston New Road site following recent heavy rainfall. We have discussed this issue with the operator and we have requested further improvements to the onsite surface water management.”

The campaign group Frack Free Lancashire has expressed frustration with the regulator.

“This is not the gold-plated regulation promised us by our government. It is a tawdry imitation of the real thing and the thin covering is wearing off in front of our eyes.

“The robust regulations that the UK government have repeatedly promised residents, have not and will not ever materialise.

“The regulatory system on fracking is not fit for purpose, placing residents’ health and lives at risk by its repetitive failures to take action against company breaches and ensure that regulations live up to the tough tests they must face.”

Frack Free Lancashire urged local Conservative MP, Mark Menzies, to “step out of the shadows” and ensure that action was taken by what it called “the disjointed regulators”.

Cuadrilla made this statement to DrillOrDrop:

“The Environment Statement for Preston New Road explains the design of the well pad which has been constructed and quality checked to ensure rainwater and other site fluids are not discharged in an uncontrolled manner.

“The well pad was deliberately constructed with a protective membrane to prevent flow from site to Carr Bridge Brook and groundwater receptors. Subsequently a “bath tub” has been deliberately created which will contain rainwater safely preventing environmental harm.

“To control the quantity of rainwater on site, Cuadrilla uses tankers to remove and transport rainwater to a permitted waste water treatment facility.”

Repeated permit breaches

Today’s statement from the Environment Agency coincided with a Spinwatch report which detailed five environmental permit breaches at the Preston New Road site since January, three of which are linked to surface water problems.

In February and March, permit breaches were listed against the company when water containing silt escaped from the site and discharged into a tributary of the Carr Bridge Brook (Environment Agency report).

A similar incident happened in June when silt-contaminated water escaped through an electrical conduit (Environment Agency report)

The three breaches all involved the management of surface water and were described as non-compliances, which could have a minor environmental effect. No enforcement action was taken.

In the June report, the EA instructed Cuadrilla to:

“Prevent the escape of silt contaminated surface water from the drainage system by ensuring that the drainage system is sealed”.

In a report in August, the Environment Agency told Cuadrilla:

“You should ensure sufficient surface water run-off drainage and attenuation capacity is provided at all time, to avoid water pooling on site and/or ditch overflowing.”

In that report, the EA added:

“Contingency plans should be in place to cover periods of heavy or prolonged rainfalls and any changes in normal operations.”

Details of permit breaches over surface water

27 February 2017

Silt from the Preston New Road pad entered tributary of Carr Bridge Brook. The EA said a treatment method for surface water did not provide sufficient treatment to prevent silt entering the tributary. Link to Environment Agency Compliance Assessment Report

2 March 2017

Escape of surface water from the well pad containing silt into tributary of Carr Bridge Brook. The EA said silt overwhelmed a low bund and escaped into a header drain that collected surface water. Link to Environment Agency Compliance Assessment Report

14 June 2017

Cuadrilla reported during a site visit that silt contaminated water had escaped via an electrical conduit into a tributary of the Carr Bridge Brook, in breach of two conditions of the permit. Link to Environment Agency Compliance Assessment Report

The other permit breach concerned waste storage.

  • Drone footage has recorded standing water on at least the following dates in 2017: 15 February, 25 February, 10 March, 23 June, 9 August, 17 August, 31 August and 25 October.


30 replies »

  1. And the ponds in the background of the picture are an environmental disaster in the making??

    Predictable. No problems of any significance so some house keeping issues have to be elevated as progress continues. Just a large scale wheel washing facility. Keep the easily excited, excited, because progress continues and a story has to be created that the progress is so dangerous. Goodness, even the multiple Giggling of US “terror” events tried to focus upon something a little more germane.

    Suppose there should be gratitude that puddles three kilometers away are not being blamed upon Cuadrilla.

    Hinkley C has had to have concrete foundations rebuilt as they were below standard. A few puddles or a collapsing reactor. One is laughable the other is a serious issue, the choice is yours, but this sort of story is not convincing those in the wider world who are not focusing upon fracking.

    • … p.s. ‘always’ as in for the duration of those fields at least. It’s likely that they are centuries-old Marling ponds – where workers dug into lime deposits for farmer’s fertilizer and builder’s lime.

  2. Martin why do you keep bringing up nuclear power? Do you think we want that either, no we don’t. We’re campaigning for safe clean renewables. So please don’t mention coal, nuclear or your neighbour’s muck heap in response.

  3. And they still don’t acknowledge the breaches, they are unbelievable, honesty is clearly not in their vocabulary.

  4. It’s good to see the EA taking notice, but also exercising its regulatory powers with discretion and in accordance with its published principles of enforcement:

    • proportionality in the application of the law and in securing compliance;
    • consistency of approach;
    • transparency about how it operates and what those it regulates may expect from it;
    • targeting of enforcement action; and
    • accountability for the enforcement action it has taken.

    When considering the appropriate course of action to ensure compliance the EA aims to follow the Macrory Penalty Principles. These state that enforcement and sanctions should:

    • aim to change the behaviour of the offender;
    • aim to eliminate any financial gain or benefit from non-compliance;
    • be responsive and consider what is appropriate for the particular offender and regulatory issue, which can include punishment and the public stigma that should be associated with a criminal conviction;
    • be proportionate to the nature of the offence and the harm caused;
    • aim to restore the harm caused by regulatory non-compliance, where appropriate; and
    • aim to deter future non-compliance.

    Obviously, there will be some onlookers that expect the EA to drag Cuadrilla through the courts for any breach of permit conditions, but that’s simply not how it works.

    Proportionality is key here. Small, unconsented discharges of silty water (a common problem on construction and civil engineering sites involving excavation) that haven’t caused any demonstrable harm, while important to correct, are unlikely to be of any real consequence.

    The important point to note is that the EA is doing its job, and doing it firmly but fairly.

  5. If the workers on site fart more than usual then I am sure the anti frackers brigade will complaint to the EA of breaches of over emissions of greenhouse gases.

  6. Environmental, I have no problem with proportionality but a degree of contrition on the part of Cuadrilla would not go amiss. A simple apology and a determination to do things right would have been a nice inclusion in their statement or is that expecting too much?

  7. Talking about planning conditions, I have a seriously overdue freedom of information request regarding archaeological supervision of all preparation work for the fracking pad which involves breaking new ground!
    Was there just some or the correct amount as clearly stated on the planning conditions?

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