Fracking water pollution fears

Cuadrilla's drilling rig in place on the site at Singleton
Cuadrilla's drilling rig in place on the site at Singleton
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Chemicals used in the controversial gas drilling method known as ‘fracking’ have contaminated water supplies in an American town, it is feared.

Officials in the USA have confirmed the technique – which is being pioneered in the UK on the Fylde coast by Cuadrilla Resources – is the “likely cause” of contamination in a remote valley in Wyoming.

The news comes after a three year study by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Campaigners on the Fylde coast believe it confirms their fears about the dangers of shale gas fracking.

Helen Rimmer, North West Campaigner Friends of the Earth: “This study shows shale gas extraction probably contaminated US drinking water – it’s no wonder Fylde residents are concerned.

“There should be no more fracking in Lancashire until the health and environmental impacts have been properly investigated and are fully understood.

“A clean and secure energy future lies in harnessing the county’s vast renewable energy resources, like wind and solar power – not more dirty fossil fuels.”

Hydraulic fracking involves sending water and chemical thousands of feet underground to break up rock and release gas.

The process is currently suspended in the UK after two earthquakes which hit Poulton earlier this year.

Locally, Cuadrilla Resources has sites in Singleton and Weeton and is due to start work in Westby.

There is also a drill rig at Hesketh Bank, Southport, which has been the subject of a number of protests.

Singleton Coun Maxine Chew, who has the company’s Grange Road rig in her ward, said: “From my investigations with this sort of thing it’s up to the integrity of the company that’s doing the drilling.

“If they’ve done their work properly and they’ve surveyed the ground they are drilling and avoid aquifers (wet underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock) it will be OK, and I would think Cuadrilla is a more responsible company than most.”

Coun Chew stressed she remained “cautiously optimistic” about Cuadrilla’s activities on the Fylde, but wants assurances the drilling is safe.

The US Environmental Protection Agency said samples taken from two deep water-monitoring wells near a gas field in Pavillion, Wyoming, showed synthetic chemicals such as glycols and alcohols “consistent with gas production and hydraulic-fracturing fluids,” the agency said today in an emailed statement.

The US gets about one-third of its gas from fracking.

In 2010, the US Department of Health and Human Services recommended Pavillion residents use alternate sources of water for drinking and cooking. While testing detected ‘petroleum hydrocarbons’ in wells and in groundwater, the agency at the time said it could not pinpoint the source of the contamination.

A spokeswoman for Cuadrilla said: “As the report stated, the findings were specific to this particular area and is not at all comparable to our Lancashire activity.

“Cuadrilla lines all wells with three layers of steel casing and carries out exploration thousands of feet below the aquifer to eliminate the threat of water contamination.

“To date, only one additive has been used during fracking with the full composition of our fracking fluid available to view on the Cuadrilla website.”