Waste water produced by shale gas drilling can be managed safely and the environment can be protected, environmental chiefs believe.
The Environment Agency says it will take a final decision on whether to grant waste permits to fracking firm Cuadrilla once it has reviewed the company’s application and the Environmental Statements it will prepare for Lancashire County Council as part of its planning applications for shale gas exploration, expected to be this summer.
But in a statement issued last night, the EA said its “assessment to date leads us to believe Cuadrilla can effectively manage waste during their operations while protecting the environment.”
The permits will allow Cuadrilla to manage waste produced by the fracking process and are needed to allow shale gas drilling to go ahead.
Campaigners and residents opposed to shale gas drilling are fearful about the potential environmental impact of waste water.
Mike Hill, engineer and member of campaign group Defend Lytham, said: “They’re (the EA) completely jumping the gun. There’s nowhere near enough information.
“We don’t know who’s treating the water, where they’re treating it or how so how can we raise sensible questions or comments on it.
“The Environment Agency has not issued guidelines to local offices in relation to how to regulate fracking, without those they can’t issue permits because their own offices can’t regulate the industry.”
However, Keith Ashcroft, area manager for the EA, said: “We have been working closely with the local authorities and other regulators and have listened to concerns raised during the consultation so far.
“We appreciate people are looking to us all to provide confidence that local communities and the environment will be protected during exploration for shale gas.
“Our assessment to date leads us to believe that Cuadrilla can effectively manage waste during their operations while protecting the environment.”
No other information was revealed as to what had brought the EA to release its statement.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said: “Cuadrilla is committed to meeting all regulatory requirements among which Environment Agency (EA) permits are clearly very important.
“We recognise there is a due process that the EA must follow and we will do all we can to assist in this.
“With permits granted by the EA in place, we will have demonstrably sound and visibly regulated arrangements for the safe storage, removal and processing of our returned waters.
“As well as routinely monitoring our own performance, adherence to our permit conditions will be separately and independently inspected by the EA at regular intervals.”
The process of fracking involves pumping water and chemicals underground at high speed to release the gas.
But that returns contaminated ‘returned water’ from the drilling well.
The company says all returned water on site is stored in steel tanks. An EA-approved water disposal company should remove all waste water.
Campaigners are worried about the impact of removing the water and potential spillages on land.
Tina Rothery, from Residents Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF), previously told The Gazette: “We feel this is one of the most dangerous parts of the operation and they should make public their plans before anyone approves them to dispose of this waste.
“I want them to give us a cast iron guarantee that no trucks full of water would crash, but that isn’t going to happen.”