Woodburn Forest drill: ‘Oil spillage’ at site

A photograph showing the hydrocarbon spill at Woodburn Forest.  INCT 14-720-CON
A photograph showing the hydrocarbon spill at Woodburn Forest. INCT 14-720-CON

The company behind the controversial drilling project at Woodburn Forest has confirmed a “minor oil spillage” at the site.

The hydrocarbon spill was initially spotted by members of Stop the Drill, who oppose plans for an exploratory borehole at the rural location.

“Over [Easter] weekend several members of the public observed a hydrocarbon (oil and/or petrol and/or diesel) spill in a water course which crosses the InfraStrata drill site at Woodburn Forest,” a spokesperson for the group said.

“The water course runs into Woodburn River and is in a water catchment area. Several people reported the spill to the NIEA pollution hotline and photographs were sent to the NI Water Emergency team.”

In a statement, InfraStrata indicated that NIEA’s Water Management Unit attended the site on Monday, March 28 in response to a complaint of a pollution incident the previous evening.

“No work activities had taken place on site since late afternoon on Friday March 25. Since that time all plant equipment was securely parked on the access track within the security area near the site entrance and was non-operational over the Easter holiday period,” the statement added.

“Following inspection NIEA officials advised InfraStrata’s onsite personnel that they had observed a very minor mineral oil spillage and no action was required by the company.”

A Department of the Environment spokesperson confirmed that the inspection was carried out by NIEA on Easter Monday morning.

“The inspectors found evidence of a very minor mineral oil spillage which had entered a small waterway which runs across the InfraStrata site,” the spokesperson added. “There was no visible impact on site and the cause of the spillage is unknown.”

However, NI Water indicated that their staff could find “no evidence of a spillage” despite an inspection of the site and adjacent watercourses.

Meanwhile, Stop the Drill are urging local people to stay vigilant for “further pollution incidents”.

The group said: “As the site is in a water catchment area, if you see anything that looks like pollution please do the following:

- Take photographs or video if you have the time;

- Log the incident with the NIEA pollution hotline on 0800807060 and ask for a reference;

- Log the incident with NI Water on 03457440088 and ask for a reference.

- Inform Stop The Drill.”

Meanwhile, the campaign group also alleged a previous spill of hydraulic fluid by an InfraStrata contractor on February 19.

However, NIEA said it had not received any reports of this.