Campaigners wishing to oversee the restoration of Woodburn Forest after the site returned a “dry well” are being told to approach the company behind the project.
DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen said that she had “no authority” to permit an independent monitor to enter the site, where InfraStrata completed drilling last week.
In a statement on its website, the firm reported the well was drilled to a depth of 2,000 metres and encountered two conventional sandstone reservoir intervals, but no traces of oil.
Andrew Hindle, CEO of InfraStrata, said: “It is naturally disappointing not to have encountered a hydrocarbon accumulation and the joint venture will now fully evaluate the data collected in the well and decide where to focus its future exploration activity in the basin.
“We will now work with our local contractors to professionally restore the site.”
Following the development, calls were made for a representative from Stop the Drill to be allowed to monitor restoration of the site.
Along with the proper disposal of drilling waste, the group are seeking assurances that the water catchment area was not contaminated during the drilling period.
Commenting on the request, DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen said: “My officials in NIEA have regularly inspected this site and will continue to do so during the restoration of the site and during the post closure period.
“As the DAERA Minister I have no authority to permit a Stop the Drill representative to enter the InfraStrata site at Woodburn Forest. Any such requests should be addressed directly to InfraStrata.”
NIEA are implementing a water quality monitoring plan for the site, which involves both surface waters and groundwaters, the minister added.
“NIEA are closely monitoring the results to ensure there is no impact on the environment or public health,” Michelle McIlveen said.
“Water quality monitoring began before InfraStrata entered the site, it has continued on a weekly basis throughout the operational phase of the project and will continue during the abandonment of the borehole and the restoration of the site. There will also be monitoring during the post closure period.
“NIEA is also responsible through the Drinking Water Inspectorate of ensuring that NI Water’s water quality monitoring and risk assessments for the Dorisland Water Treatment Works drinking water supply meet regulatory requirements.
“NIEA also regulates the movement of waste from the site under the appropriate waste management legislation.
“The movement of small scale mobile radioactive sources will be regulated under the Certificate of Registration under section 10 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 to keep and use mobile radioactive apparatus in Northern Ireland which has been issued by the NIEA’s Industrial Pollution and Radiochemical Inspectorate (IPRI).
“As drilling has now finished, I hope that the protests can be brought to a conclusion and that local residents can now proceed more easily with day-to-day life.”