DoE responds to Woodburn water contamination fears

One of last year's public meetings on the Woodburn exploration well plans.  INCT 25-106-GR-
One of last year's public meetings on the Woodburn exploration well plans. INCT 25-106-GR-

Fresh claims over the potential for water contamination at a Carrickfergus drill site have been rejected by the Department of the Environment.

Environmental groups previously voiced their opposition to plans for an exploration well at Woodburn Forest.

The project, which is being led by energy storage firm InfraStrata, is due to commence this September.

It will evaluate whether oil or gas are present in the porous sandstones below the site,two miles from Carrick.

Among the most recent concerns raised by green campaigners was the potential for leaking of potentially hazardous contaminants at the site, which is in close proximity to Woodburn reservoir and a drinking water catchment area.

Campaign group ‘Stop the Drill’, made up of members of Protect our Coast and Glens, Friends of Woodburn Forest and others, claimed that water from the North Woodburn reservoir supplies Dorisland Water Works, which feeds water to more than 1800 streets.

“This breaks down to 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 1 street in Antrim,” a statement from the group read.

The group went on to allege that the Department had not been fully apprised of the chemicals involved in the drill process when permitted development rights were applied.

“The fact that the chemical characteristics of this process were not known to the Department (or if they were they were not assessed) at the time of permitted development rights being applied is a key issue. Among the most concerning chemicals/compounds which Infrastrata will use at Woodburn are Halad-300L NS and Biocide T,” the group added. “These are not chemicals which should be allowed under permitted development.”

However, the Department indicated it was “satisified” that sufficient measures were being taken to prevent contamination. “DoE conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment determination prior to advising that the proposed works could be carried out under permitted development rights,” a spokesperson said.

“This assessment considered the potential impact on the fresh water aquifers and surface water catchment in the vicinity of the proposal and given the pollution prevention and mitigation measures to be put in place, the Department was satisfied that the effects on the water environment are not deemed to be significant”.

Meanwhile, during a series of public engagement days last year, InfraStrata emphasized that the site was designed to be watertight with ‘zero discharge’.