The shale gas company, Cuadrilla, has applied to dispose of water which collects on its fracking site near Blackpool into a brook instead of removing it by tanker.
The proposal, made in a 23-document application to the Environment Agency published yesterday, is another variation of the company’s permit for the Preston New Road site.
Earlier this week Cuadrilla was allowed to change environmental controls on issues including seismic monitoring, duration of flaring and the daily maximum use of hydraulic fracturing fluid. DrillOrDrop report
The new change, now open for a public consultation until 26 January 2018, is to pipe uncontaminated surface water into the nearby Carr Bridge Brook and install a treatment plant at the shale gas site.
Frack Free Lancashire said it was disappointed that Cuadrilla appeared to be able to “move the regulatory goalposts at will”.
People have already opposed the move by objecting through the Environment Agency’s consultation webpage. One person said:
“This is an exact example of how opening the door to Cuadrilla enables a foot in the door and tiny tweaks and variations overtime considerably change the application that was first permitted.”
Several times this year there has been surface water flooding at the site. In April 2017, the Environment Agency told Cuadrilla to improve its surface water management after it breached the permit conditions by allowing water from the site to reach a tributary of the Carr Bridge Brook. DrillOrDrop report
The Preston New Road site has an impermeable membrane which is designed to prevent chemical spills reaching local streams or groundwater. But this means that rain collects on the surface.
Under the present system, the rainwater drains into perimeter ditches and is then taken by tanker to an offsite waste treatment facility.
Cuadrilla wants to pipe the water into the Carr Bridge Brook just over 1km away. The company said the water would first be collected in a holding tank, tested and, if necessary, treated before disposal in the brook.
“This approach will benefit the environment and project by eliminating or significantly reducing tanker movements from the site and to control surface water attenuation.”
It said the lower number of tanker movements would reduce emissions, noise and air quality impacts.
The non-technical summary, which is part of the application, said the process could change the water chemistry. But it said the discharged water would be monitored and “benchmarked against Environmental Quality Standards”.
The rate at which water was piped into the brook would be controlled to “ensure the levels do not exceed the natural runoff rate”, Cuadrilla said.
But a comment on the Environment Agency’s consultation said the brook fed into a main dyke which regularly overflowed. The additional water in the brook and dyke system would also have a negative impact on local wildlife, which included protected water voles and otters.
The surface water management plan, which also accompanies Cuadrilla’s application, said the maximum daily discharge would be 480m3. This is the equivalent of discharging the pipes and full ditch contents more than twice per day, or 20m3 per hour. This is expected only during extreme and intense rainfall, the company said.
Cuadrilla said the discharge rate should not exceed 24.8 litres/second, a rate based on the rainfall expected in a 1-in-30 year storm.
The treatment plant would use a chemical-free electrocoagulation technology, Cuadrilla said. It is capable of handling up to 10m3/hour.
The company said installing a new sewer to dispose of water would be “disproportionate” because the current planning permission required drilling and hydraulic fracturing to be completed in 30 months. There was also no planning permission for a new sewer.
It added that after drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the risk of contamination to surface water quality was low so rainfall could be discharged into the brook without processing.
A spokesperson for Frack Free Lancashire said:
“We are highly disappointed that Cuadrilla appears to be able to move the regulatory goalposts at will. The situation seems to change on a weekly basis as they salami-slice their conditions for their own benefit.
“For example, we are now on Version 11 of the Traffic Management Plan. The application to discharge fluids into the local watercourses is simply another example of Cuadrilla putting the local environment at risk in interests of their own economic expediency.”