The Environment Agency spelt out today what it sees as the risks to water from a shale gas industry.
In its report The State of the environment: water quality, the organisation included fracking as a potential threat.
The process was considered as a future pressure, alongside nano-particles, plastic pollution, particular chemicals of concern, population growth and climate change.
The report, introduced by the Environment Agency’s chair, Emma Howard Boyd, said:
“Fracking for shale gas could bring risks to the quality of both surface and groundwaters as well as placing a new demand on water resources in some areas.
“The main concerns involve accidental spills or leaks, particularly if these should occur in the subsurface.”
Last week, researchers at Durham and Newcastle Universities warned that there could be one spill for every four large UK shale gas pads. The study, the first of its kind in the UK, concluded that strict controls would be “a necessity” to minimise the risk of spills on site and during transport of chemicals.
This message was repeated in today’s Environment Agency report which said:
“Strong regulation around techniques such as fracking will need to continue in order to minimise such risks.”
The report referenced the 2012 Shale gas extraction in the UK: a review of hydraulic fracturing by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering.
This recommended that a single body should take the lead on regulation of a UK fracking industry – something which has yet to happen.
Other recommendations included:
- Minimising the use of water
- Recycling and reuse of waste water
- Planning from the outset the disposal of waste fluids
- Developing arrangements for monitoring abandoned wells
- Clarifying guidelines to ensure the independence of well examiners from the site operator
Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of the industry body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said:
“It is only right that the Environment Agency understands any potential risks to the water and wider environment associated with industrial activities of all kinds. It is its role as a regulator to both understand potential risks and ensure measures are in place, through permitting, to provide the necessary protections.
The onshore industry is fully committed to working transparently on environmental issues and continues to engage openly to ensure our excellent environmental record is maintained.”
The Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, who campaigns against fracking and onshore oil and gas developments, said:
“The Environment Agency has only confirmed what we already know; fracking is a major threat to our water supply. The report also reveals the Government is already failing to clean up its shamefully poor record on water quality. That 86% of water bodies fail to reach ‘good’ ecological status is a sad indictment of the Conservative Government’s dereliction of its duty to protect our environment and our health.
“To put our water further at risk with an ideologically driven crusade to fast-track fracking across England is brazen ecological sabotage–not to mention a dangerous form of climate denial.”
Updated: 20/2/2018 with quote from Ken Cronin