Research

Fracking is affecting our health, neighbours of shale gas site tell UK experts

181119 Professor Middleton DoD1

Professor John Middleton,(centre) president of the Faculty of Public Health, with campaigners outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, 19 November 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

One of the UK’s leading public health experts heard testimony today about the stress of living with fracking from neighbours of Cuadrilla’s shale gas site.

Professor John Middleton, the president of the Faculty of Public Health*, met people whose homes are within a few hundred metres of the Preston New Road site in Lancashire.

The residents, all of whom oppose fracking, told him and Professor Patrick Saunders, of Staffordshire University, that their health and wellbeing had been affected by Cuadrilla’s operations.

Graham Daniels, who lives at Carr Bridge residential park, said he felt his health had deteriorated.

“I now have problems with blood pressure which I didn’t have before. My wife now is being treated for blood pressure. She also was clear – she never had any illness of any sort or any medication.

“I think it is the worry, the stress of what is going on here, that has exacerbated our conditions.

“It is a worry about what is going to happen if this takes off. When the flaring starts, for one thing, the air quality could be a problem. We just don’t know what the effect is going to be.”

Susan Holliday lives 350m from the site perimeter and can see the pad from her bedroom window. She said she had worked in a stressful job and was used to being under considerable pressure. But she said:

“The difference is that this is your home that is affected. It is the place we chose to buy to retire to. People get very emotional about the situation. It is stressful.”

As current chair of the Preston New Road Action Group, she continues to represent local residents. But she said a small group of neighbours of Preston New Road had been opposing the proposals for at least four years.

She said residents challenged the application through the local planning system, then went through a six-week public inquiry, followed by a judicial review and finally the court of appeal. When work got underway at the site, they began carrying out their own independent noise, air and water quality monitoring.

Her husband Chris described how, unlike a job, the workload and stress was round the clock.

“People are online 24/7. Susan is getting emails at all times. It is relentless.”

181119 Professor Middleton DoD2

(l to r) Professor John Middleton, local physician Dr Frank Rugman and Professor Patrick Saunders visiting campaigners outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, 19 November 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Dianne Westgarth, who lives 850m away from the site, said she had previously been very healthy.

“I donated a kidney to my brother and you have to be very healthy to do that. Now my blood pressure is so high it is not controllable.”

Ms Westgarth said the original application was 4,500 pages.

“That is what the community had to get its teeth into. That is huge for a little community to take on. We have fought this for four years, primarily self-funded.”

With fracking now underway, Moggsy Marsh, said:

“It is very, very scary. It’s not just for me. It’s for my grandchildren and everybody else, even your animals. I’d love it to just stop. It’s not fair on ordinary people.”

The residents said the recent series of earth tremors caused by fracking at the site had alerted more people in the area to what was happening at Preston New Road. They said the overwhelming local feeling was against the operation.

Peter Watson, who lives about 370m away from the site perimeter, said there appeared to be no accountability for problems:

“We have invested a lot in our houses. They have old-style foundations. If we do get earthquakes there will be a lot of damage and there is no recourse.”

James Marsh said:

“We cannot afford to get out of the house. If the house is damaged we have nothing to leave to our son.”

The residents described how some local houses were not selling as quickly as they had before Cuadrilla’s application and how some had lost value. But they stressed their concerns were not about money.

Dianne Westgarth said:

“I do not think we will ever be the same. We don’t laugh like we used to.”

 

The professors also visited campaigners opposite the site gate and were due to meet Lancashire’s Director of Public Health.

Professor Saunders said the number of scientific studies on the effects of direct exposure to fracking were very small. Based on them, he said:

“No serious scientist would come to the conclusion that fracking is safe or unsafe. You could not come to that conclusion.

“But you can say that your experiences are real.”

Professor Middleton said:

“We wanted to see and hear directly how this is affecting you. We have a clear view of how it is impacting you day-to-day.”

He said the Faculty of Public Health would be arguing against fracking on climate change grounds but he said:

“At the same time no one should have to suffer what you are having to put up with.”

He promised to investigate the progress of a review by the government’s adviser, Public Health England (PHE), of the latest evidence of the health impacts of fracking.

  • The Faculty of Public Health is a membership organisation that sets standards for public health specialists in the UK. It was formed in 1972 by the Royal Colleges of Physicians.

Reporting from this meeting was made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers

68 replies »

  1. “Professor Saunders said the number of scientific studies on the effects of direct exposure to fracking were very small. ”
    That’s not true, there was over a 1000 by 2017. There was one review study of 500 of these in 2016 that was used to persuade New York to ban fracking (back then). Perhaps Professor Saunders meant within the UK only?

    • But you know what this government’s response will be, along the lines of – Those reports are from the US and we have gold standard world class regulations, so they’re not applicable to the UK.

    • No, he was one of the main authors of the ill fated MEDACT report 2015. After loads of criticism of the poor quality and biased pseudoscience that was based on, they issued a 2016 update. This stated in their key points.

      ‘Based on current evidence it is not possible to conclude that there is a strong association between shale gas related pollution and negative local health effects’.

      So there you have it, all those studies, yet no conclusions. Of course Medact didnt document the improvements in air quality as killer coal has been replaced with clean burning gas.

      https://www.medact.org/2016/resources/reports/shale-gas-production-in-england/

      • Hey Johnson,

        Over 200 pages of reports from North America, each page with several incidents of oil and gas related incidents, most with multiple victims either human, animal or Environmental, say that you are wrong.

        I’ve printed them off and the majority can be followed up and checked out.

        Inconvenient I know but perhaps you should do the same?

  2. Wow – such a brilliant article. You should start our very own list of the harmed. With such brilliant, evidence-based, science it’s sure to convince everyone of the grave dangers of fracking. Alternatively, the anti-frackers could just stop [edited by moderator] and then they might not create so much anxiety in the community.

    • Please can the moderator have a word with Judith Green? It’s not very nice of her to call all us anti-frackers liars and it’s also scientifically and statistically incorrect.
      Many thanks.

      • Don’t worry about it Peter when the best they can do is call us liars, we are winnind by a mile.

    • Wow – Cuadrilla fracked just 1 well in 2011. It was a technical disaster.

      To put it into context

      ‘In US shale plays, fracture treatments of a similar size have yielded events of lower magnitudes, up to 0.8 ML, and there are only two
      documented cases of stronger events, of magnitude 1.9 ML and 2.8 ML, from massive hydrofrac treatments in South Central Oklahoma’

      So what other facts have we from the company ‘leading the way’ with their ‘gold standard’ operations.

      Taken from an FOI. Correspondense from HSE to Cuadrilla,

      “Cuadrilla were looking for some guidance on when a cement bond log was required and who was responsible for the interpretation of the logs. We advised that in a goal setting regime that it was the operator to establish the criteria for when they would run a CBL for surface, intermediate, and production casing. The criteria should be documented and then we could then inspect your operations against this standard”

      How amazingly reassuring. Cuadrilla (who failed at PH) ask the HSE (gold standard regulator) how and when a CBL was required. The HSE
      (gold standard regulator) tell Cuadrilla (who failed at PH) that it is up to them to set the standard.

      In an email back to HSE

      “From our 5.5 inch bond log we have identified some questionable cement bonds”

      A few years ago this statement was on Cuadrilla’s website

      ‘Members of Cuadrilla’s management team have each played leading roles in the drilling and/or hydraulic fracturing of more than 3,000 natural gas and oil wells across the world.’

      Is it still there?

      I strongly suggest the pro fracking community post the list of the other sites Cuadrilla have drilled and fracked so we can see if they have done any better than Preese Hall.

      In the absence of evidence of success we will use the facts that we have. To date that is that fracking in the UK is a serious risk.

      I await the list of Cuadrillas success full developments and proof of communities happy to live within a few hundred metres of their fracking sites.

  3. “He said the Faculty of Public Health would be arguing against fracking on climate change grounds” LOL. No serious scientist would say this. There’s no other technology that has done more to reduce GHG emissions than fracking. This is obviously a PR stunt and nothing more.

  4. [Edited by moderator] This is classic nonsense which of course needs no proof. Better go back to the stone age.

    Still making false claims about insurance I see, in spite of the fact that no insurance company makes any loading for shale gas operations.

    So much manufactured ‘worry’ from seismic issues that cannot even be felt and that science says do no damage.

    • Apparently scientific research into the earthquakes at Preese Hall proved that:

      1. They were caused by Cuadrilla fracking.

      2. They caused deformation of the well resulting in the whole fracking industry in the UK being closed down for several years.

      Thank you Johnson for making an embarrassment of yourself.

      Bye bye.

      • How many fluids actually leaked due to the small amount of deformation at 2km below the surface? How much damage was caused due to the tremors? The answer to both is zero. In other words there were no HSE issues at Preese Hall. The only person embarrassing themselves is you Peter – trying your best to make a mountain out of a molehill

        • Preese Hall was one well. To replace just half of the gas we import would require 6200 wells if the yield was medium rate. If the yield was less per well, double that amount would be needed and each additional well increases the risk of failure.

          • Well done Pauline – you seem to have skills that people in industry don’t have – predicting flow rates of shale gas wells. Britain seems to have suddenly acquired 60 million experts on fracking

            • The amount of gas produced from Preese Hall can be found in the completion report. Very poor returns considering they needed to trigger a 2.3 m earthquake to get even that small amount.

              The recent AJ Lucas investment report suggests viability at 67%. Of course, as expected, the report makes a few ‘errors’ to help it on it’s way.

              With regards to seismicity the report states,

              “The new regime includes the requirement for seismic monitoring of each well site area and a system under which operations are halted if seismicity reaches a level greater than 1.7 ML (Operation has to stop if 1.7 is exceeded,the well bled off and then the seismicity monitored until zero events for at least 10 days, then the operation can recommence, otherwise the operation has to be aborted and the seismic risk reevaluated)”

              That’s odd. No mention of the fact that the threshold is 0.5 m.

              I wonder why that might be?

              I wonder what the viability percentage would come out at the factual 0.5m threshold?

              Another ‘incy tincy’ bit of missed information in the report relates to the Becconsall and Singleton wells. The report ‘forgets’ to mention that those sites had already been agreed to be shut down. That’s 2 less wells with huge costs and no future. Easy missed I suppose in a comprehensive investors report.

              It really isn’t hard to join the dots.

  5. Better add that the ‘Faculty of Public Health’ is a campaigning charity, not something like the GMC.

    ‘Not surprisingly, our members do a wide variety of jobs. The majority work in local
    government leading or working within public health teams doing things like developing
    strategies to tackle air pollution or reduce smoking, obesity and drug-use in their local
    communities.’

    Click to access fph-explaining-who-we-are-and-what-we-do-final-20181022.pdf

    Sounds a bit like Medact. The retired Frank Rugman (not a member of the GMC now) is a member of both. A groups of well meaning people who want to campaign for what they see as the greater good, without the inconvenience of having to do proper science.

    • It is a measure of worth by the responses from the pro-frackers to the residents who have clearly been negatively affected by this industry.

      Feel their pain. Stop this pettiness and understand what is happening to real people.

      ‘He said the Faculty of Public Health would be arguing against fracking on climate change grounds’ – this affects billions, is fracking’s nemesis.

      • It is the[edited by moderator] anti-frackers that are the root of problems not the activities of the companies themselves. The responses above seem to be people suffering from anxiety in the same way as someone worrying about the ethnicity of their neighbours due to some rubbish that Tommy Robinson has told them. There is absolutely nothing that has happened at PNR in terms of health that wouldn’t have happened with pretty much any other development

        • Judith, do you really believe that drilling deep down into the earth below the feet of Fylde residents then repearedly pumping massive amounts of contaminated fluids into the resulting holes has any relationship with other activities previously experienced around here?
          You really are a wrong one!

          • Pumping relatively small amounts of low salinity fluid into the ground has zero impact on health. The only issues are traffic, which was there before fracking and will be there after fracking. The other issues seem to me to be anxiety caused by people such as you [edited by moderator]

            • Judith are you saying that the additional traffic to proposed fracking sites will not have a material impact on the locality of the site?

              To date the operators TIA for PNR appear to be grossly underestimated , is this deliberate? and can we expect that TIAs for other sites where traffic is more of an issue such as Roseacre Wood to have also have been underestimated?

        • I don’t think you understand. If Cuadrilla weren’t fracking it would still be a field full of cows next to the road. There was no ‘other development’ due to take place. That is why the people quoted in the article bought their caravans and mobile homes and cottages to retire to. Instead of remaining a peaceful rural spot it has become an industrial site in a field close to their homes, with all the noise, traffic, light pollution, and general industrial activity, fencing, security guards and so on, that you can imagine.

  6. This is a very similar to but updated account of the harm inflicted by the fracking industry, even before the flaring starts, by Anna Szolucha titled ‘The Human Dimension of Shale Gas Developments in Lancashire, UK’.
    Containing 17 pages just detailing Anna’s points of reference, it is very much a must read for any social commentator on this fraught subject [edited by moderator]

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