Water quality and resources could be at risk from fracking, says the Environment Agency

PNR 180217 Ros Wills 1

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site near Blackpool, 17 February 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

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.”


Tanker leaving Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, 17 February 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

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

50 replies »

  1. Tomorrow I will be phoning the EA for the 6th time regarding a concern they have agreed to look into. This has taken over a month. How is this a demonstration of gold standards?

    • Perhaps the only gold standard that does actually exist is the one for avoiding the question?
      This government and it’s captive and criminally financially and organisationally emasculated regulators must have platinum and diamond standards for avoidance of any issue that actually reveals their total lack of accountability?
      NASA strategy, Never A Straight Answer.

  2. And so we continue to bang our heads against the wall. It matters little what the EA says if it contradicts the ideology which underlies government policy.It is inconceivable that the government is unaware of the mounting evidence which argues abandonment of its policy of promoting hydraulic fracturing. This being the case, either the promoters are stupid or they are acting in bad faith. In neither case is their continuance as a government a realistic option. Apart from the spurious claims of a national need for energy security, claims already denied by the government itself, what other arguments can be adduced which justify fracking. No argument can trump the scientific claim that if we develop new sources of fossil fuel then not only will our climate commitments be rendered impossible to meet, but we will be deciding the fate of many low-lying countries in the short term, and our own sooner than we think. Is this our moral right|? The loss of land for living and for agriculture will hasten migratory movements in search thereof, promoting conflicts both locally and worse. Ecocide will lead to destruction of the planet. There are still those who believe it’s just another well.

    • “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”

      Let’s take these one at a time shall we?

      Minimising the use of water: We are informed are we not that only clean water can be used? How is a hydraulic process to be minimised in the use of water? That effectively cripples the process.

      Recycling and reuse of waste water: That will concentrate the pollutants at each subsequent stage and lead to high levels of concentrated poisons and all the assurances of tiny concentrations are hence not valid.

      Planning from the outset the disposal of waste fluids: Where are these plans? There is no evidence of any plans whatsoever. Any enquiry is answered with avoidance or silence.

      Developing arrangements for monitoring abandoned wells: What? Are there no arrangements already in place? Several sites are already in that situation? Are we now seeing that there are no existing regulations and arrangements for reinstatement and monitoring? Who will pay for that? NOT the tax payer! What an absolute farce this report reveals!

      Clarifying guidelines to ensure the independence of well examiners from the site operator: What? No self regulation? Hooray! At last! Self regulation is a joke! Let’s have independent regulators at EVERY stage of the process!

      Endgame isn’t it!

      Also this today.

      75% of deep sea fish found to have plastic particles.

      Considering land fill and illegal waste disposal, accidents from fracking and its related operations that avoid the word, chemicals and the strongest acid on the planet, waste disposal is still an issue that the industry and its proponents refuse to discuss. The additional problem of the massive depletion of fresh water supplies, apparent in USA, Canada, Australia and elsewhere, one could only wonder that this is the final nail in the long overdue coffin of the fracking industry.
      Awwww! Dear dear, how sad, never mind!

      [Comment edited at poster’s request]

      • Phil C
        I will provide an alternative view on the 5 points raised by the EA. Maybe agree or not, let’s see.

        But re the strongest acid on the planet ( or the most dangerous as noted by Katheryn ), google and yahoo disagree.

        Searches on yahoo and google do not bring up that scary acid when looking for the most dangerous or the strongest on the planet.

        I invite all to google away and see what they find.

        Fluroantimonic acid turns up a few times FYI.

        • I will await that with interest, I guess “most dangerous” rather depends upon which one you are exposed too? Somewhat subjective to the likelihood of exposure isn’t it? Rather concentrates the attention I shouldn’t wonder?

          If I was burned or poisoned by one or another, and the likelihood it would seem to be at the moment, hydrofluoric acid, I would probably say the one I was disfigured with or poisoned by was the most dangerous, to me at least?

          Since I would guess that more exotic acids remain (one hopes)locked away in toxicology cabinets and remote from public contact?

          The likelihood of exposure to those would be relatively remote would you not agree?

          So it rather depends upon likelihood of exposure doesn’t it?

          Whereas the likelihood of being exposed to hydrofluoric acid is becoming alarmingly higher by the day?

          BTW, if the industry happens to plan to use one of these other “most dangerous acids on the planet” and thereby threaten to expose us to such, perhaps you would care to let us know?

          Or will that be on the “top secret list” amongst all the other toxic elements ferried backwards and forwards under the auspices of government and police monitoring and observation on our roads?

          Do you recall the motorcyclist that was stopped on the motorway because a bike like his was seen following a fracking support vehicle? He was not of course, but the implication is, what? Why do you think such things are monitored for a “harmless” operation like fracking??

          Soon to be joined it seems by toxic hydraulic and acid fracking waste to locations unknown and undeclared and notable only by the Resounding Stoney Silence in place of a reply to a direct question of where and when and how much and how many?

          Do you see how that fails to illicit any confidence whatsoever that we are being even remotely informed about the true nature of the dangers and hence raises questions that only get responses of personal abuse, insults and/or diversion and evasion and irrelevance?

          Welcome to our world?

  3. Yawn. Any idea what a report into the cr*p that flows into rivers from farming activity would say… ban all farming as a precautionary principle.
    These headlines and the attempted panic hysteria are boring now and the masses don’t buy into it.
    Nearly every single part of life comes with a risk element from going to bed to going to work. I bets the majority of anti frackers probably don’t like someone like Elon Musk, all so stereotypical.

    • Dear oh dear.
      The report already covers pollution from farmland. Have you not read the report Mr GottaBKidding?
      I agree with you that ‘nearly every single part of life comes with a risk element’ and we must work to minimise those risks. But fracking is an unnecessary process – so we don’t need to do it. By not fracking at all we can reduce the risk of pollution from it down to zero. Result!

      • “But fracking is an unnecessary process” – tell that to the world’s population that relies on natural gas! On the contrary, a whole lot of people need fracking. In fact, many lives depend on fracking (esp those in fuel poverty).

        • There is no energy poverty, that is a contrived lie perpetrated by the energy oligarchs. Sea water is the primary most abundant form of hydrogen and oxygen on the planet. That enables hydrogen gas to be produced at point of use using radio frequency and makes devastating the entire ecosystem and exacerbating climate change with deep bore hydraulic fracking to extract natural gas obsolescent relatively poisonous and irrelevant.
          Was that the answer you were seeking to avoid?

          • Apparently the definition of ‘fuel poverty’ by the governance is not being to afford to be able to heat all the rooms of you home; this includes large mansions and slightly down on their luck investor billionaires.

            There is indeed no such thing as ‘fuel poverty’ just poverty..

        • ‘a whole lot of people need fracking’

          Apparently not says Jerome Ferrier head of the International Gas Union.

          “the future of gas does not depend on shale gas – there is enough conventional gas [to meet demand] for more than a century”.

          Maybe change to ‘a whole lot of people might need fracking in well over a hundred years from now’

          I don’t think you will find gas being burn’t a hundred years from now so best save shale for when the wind stops blowing and daylight and tides are a thing of the past.

  4. Precious little evidence of those recommendations from the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering being met. Leaving it rather late. I have little doubt the EA will continue to do exactly as they’re told by govt. Next year’s financial settlement will rely on it.

  5. Can anyone here name a form of energy extraction/generation of any scale that doesn’t entail risk? Just a wonderin’!

  6. The “population growth” is a particular worry, with sexual activity increased (according to “research”) near fracking sites. Not sure how the housing market, and the Blackpool land ladies, will be able to deal with such value adding factors, then add on an income stream provided as well. So much to worry about. Never mind, I suspect this little gem of research may achieve the objective of an increased budget, and everything will be sorted.

    • Let’s hope the Blackpool landladies aren’t relying on the fracking industry for their livelihood. The rig workers at Cuadrilla’s PNR site are living in porta- cabins on site. As Cuadrilla were forced to admit at the Public Inquiry, each pad would provide only eleven permanent jobs for locals, mainly in security and cleaning.

  7. Nowhere in the report does it say Fracking is aMajor threat, see below.
    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. The onshore oil and gas industry has a long history in
    England but strong regulation around techniques such as fracking will need to continue in order to
    minimise such risks.

    However the report does say Farming is.

    ” Agriculture is now the largest sector
    responsible for significant pollution
    events to water. Pollution incidents
    can have devastating effects on
    wildlife and can endanger human

    • It is always amusing to see the anti farming propaganda from the hydraulic fracking proposers.
      It reveals a degree of selective myopia on behalf of the fracking industry that is more revealing than obscuring of their motives.
      If they are so concerned at the risks from farming activities, why is the industry attempting to impose a process and industry that will vastly overshadow the farming issue into insignificance in comparison?
      And also will so pollute the environment that farming of any kind will be rendered impossible?
      Somewhat irrational to hold one industry up as a potential pariah whilst simultaneously proposing a process that is 1000 times worse?
      Just obscuring rhetoric. Splinter and plank isn’t it?

    • Tommy. You don’t realize it yet but we all know anti frackers have a certain tendency to cherry pick the sentence in scientific reports that fit their own agendas while ignore the rest of the report. They also tend to make their own conclusions and interpretation from any reports to express their fears.

        • That depends on who is hot desking the PR Drop The Dead Nodding Donkey cupboard ….. sorry ….. department at the time?
          They do get confused with the ever growing ID list blu tacked to the fire extinguisher though, we did get a “Gotta hold upside down and point at the base of the fracking fire” ID once? And that was unusually lucid? Though the alt right cleaner comments get a bit OTT?

          • Another conspiracy theory of your again Phil C and Sherwulfe.
            How original is it that when the anti frackers cant find evidence or logical counter arguements they make up a conspiracy theory in response.

            • BTW. Didn’t you cry that fraudulent Russian paymaster conspiracy theory nonsense the other day TW?
              Hoist by your own petard again?
              May I suggest you don’t cry wolf yourself so often and maybe we can then stop laughing long enough to take any notice?

  8. Interesting TW that the report didn’t mention the risk of nationalisation of water supply, to take us back to the good old 1970s when investment was minimal, so supplies were limited, and we could all enjoy boosting our immune system by swimming in sewage.

    Significant earthquake in Scotland last year, now one in Wales. Both anti fracking locations. Co-incidence? Maybe, but perhaps the precautionary principle should be applied, enforcing fracking, on the basis it just might bring them into line with England. This joining up of random bits of information can be quite addictive.

  9. Same with oil John. Trouble is not all oil, or gas, is “equal”. Competition adjusts price over time. Do we suck out the last dregs from expensive reservoirs or do we leave them where they are and seek alternatives, which may (or may not) be more secure and less expensive? USA took the right call by looking for new solutions. We will see whether those solutions apply to UK.

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