A number of trees have been felled at the site of a proposed oil exploration well in Woodburn Forest, just outside Carrickfergus.
Members of Stop the Drill have been blocking access at the Paisley Road entrance since last Monday after ‘keep out’ signs appeared at the rural location.
However, contractors gained access to the forest this morning through a separate entrance, according to Stop the Drill.
The group have repeatedly raised concerns over the potential for contamination of the local drinking water supply as a result of the project, which is being led by oil and gas exploration firm InfraStrata.
Protestors were also engaged in a tense stand off with police this morning over the public right of way at the forest.
“Infrastrata are blocking access to this greatly loved public amenity and have entered the site without an approved waste management plan,” a statement from Stop the Drill read.
“What we want to know now is, if there is no approved waste management plan, how can NI Water know there’s no threat to water?”
The claims were strenuously denied by NI Water, with a spokesperson adding: “The waste management plan is concerned with the management of waste from the site, such as excess spoil from the drilling process. It is not a detailed study regarding the impact on the water supply.
“NI Water has considered the potential impact of this exploratory drilling on the public water supply in this area and have no concerns regarding this work.
“We do not anticipate any water run-off from the drilling process and will be continually monitoring the project, alongside the other agencies involved.
“NI Water continuously checks the quality of drinking water and we will continue to carefully monitor the water quality and wider environmental impacts throughout this project, alongside the other agencies. The safety and welfare of the public remains our highest priority and as part of our ongoing monitoring programme, we collect regular samples and test them against drinking water regulatory standards.”
Claims that the preparatory work breaches InfraStrata’s permitted development rights were also rejected by Mid and East Antrim Council. “The removal of trees or using an alternative access does not constitute development,” a statement from the local authority read.
Stop the Drill are due to host a second public meeting this Thursday at 7pm in the Windrose.