Calls for checks on Woodburn water safety

PACEMAKER BELFAST  17/05/2016
Campaigners against an oil drilling operation at Woodburn Forest in Carrickfergus have said it is a �Ssad morning⬝ as work gets underway.
There had previously been some uncertainty over the status of the site, with the company Infrastrata claiming on its website that drilling started on Monday, while the Stop the Drill group disputed this.
However in a statement on Tuesday they said that the first well has indeed now been drilled � but they will continue to protest over the works.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 17/05/2016 Campaigners against an oil drilling operation at Woodburn Forest in Carrickfergus have said it is a �Ssad morning⬝ as work gets underway. There had previously been some uncertainty over the status of the site, with the company Infrastrata claiming on its website that drilling started on Monday, while the Stop the Drill group disputed this. However in a statement on Tuesday they said that the first well has indeed now been drilled � but they will continue to protest over the works.

Environmental campaigners fear drinking water at Woodburn reservoir could become contaminated if Infrastrata’s drill well is not monitored properly.

Representatives from Stop the Drill spoke out after Infrastrata revealed last week that it was seeking short term debt funding, and that without this its Board “will need to consider whether the Company can continue as a going concern”.

While the company subsequently secured a £300,000 loan from Baron Oil, which it says will “meet InfraStrata’s minimum levels of corporate costs and care and maintenance costs on the Islandmagee gas storage project to the end of 2017,” campaigners say the incident has highlighted the issue of who is responsible for monitoring the well.

Although Infrastrata ceased its exploratory drill for oil and gas at Woodburn Forest in June after failing to find any trace of hydrocarbons, Stop the Drill members fear the well could still pose a health risk if it is not continuously monitored.

Stop the Drill campaigner Majella McCarron said:“We are calling for accountability.

“The water at Woodburn Reservoir supplies no less than 130,000 people: 705 streets across Belfast, 532 streets in Carrickfergus, 576 streets in Newtownabbey, 59 streets in Larne, 80 streets in Whitehead, 4 streets in Ballycarry and one street in Antrim.

“If this well fails and it’s not being checked regularly no-one will know.

“We are calling for accountability and an assurance that the well will continue to be monitored, who is doing the monitoring, with what frequency and what they are testing for,” she concluded.

Stop the Drill is also seeking assurances that replacement trees will be planted to compensate those which were felled during the exploratory drill.

At the time of going to press, Infrastrata had not responded to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for the Department for Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said: “As part of the water quality monitoring programme put in place by NIEA for the site, post project groundwater sampling forms an integral component to the overall regulation of the site, in addition to the pre-project and operational phase monitoring that has already been conducted.

“NIEA’s post project water quality monitoring programme is scheduled to finish in March 2017.

“Since drilling operations have ceased, the well has been plugged and abandoned and has no pathway for fluids to enter surface fresh waters.

“Chemicals used as part of the mud system in the drilling process were pumped into the borehole and then recirculated out of the borehole as part of a closed recirculation system.

“Once the drilling mud was no longer required it was transported off site for treatment and disposal at a licensed facility.

“NIEA water monitoring to date has demonstrated no impact from the use of the drilling mud.

“In accordance with The Petroleum Production Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1987 as amended by the Petroleum Production (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010, information on the specific chemicals used to drill the borehole must be treated as confidential and cannot be released for a period of 4 years.”

A spokesperson from the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) added: “The Licensees have discharged their responsibilities with respect to monitoring of the Woodburn Forest No. 1 well, following its permanent plugging and abandonment.”