Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Fracking poses risk to public health says County Council assessment

Toxic seepage:
Cuadrilla's original drilling site at Preece Hall Farm
(photo taken before site was shut down)
Last Thursday Lancashire County Council considered the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on Lancashire’s two fracking site applications (Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood) from Cuadrilla.

The HIA makes it clear that the current level of regulatory safeguards governing this new industry is not sufficient to protect public health. You can view the document by clicking here.

The council has until New Year's Eve to decide whether to grant the applications, or whether to keep the gas in the ground and save it (and the surrounding environment) as a potential resource for a future generation and future technology.

In the same week Private Eye posted an update on Cuadrilla's leaking drillshaft at Preece Hall Farm, (pictured) lying about 5 miles this side of Blackpool. They report that the pipe casing supposed to seal the abandoned shaft has buckled. Pressure readings indicate that  gas or heavily toxic and radioactive fracking waste fluids are seeping up.  Unfortunately Cuadrilla have no log for the cement-bond work that should seal in the casing, because the Health & Safety Executive, perhaps following David Cameron's frack-friendly policy, told them early on they needn't bother keeping one. Cuadrilla is now seeking permission to grass over and leave the site, formerly farmland, now potentially a hazardous toxic wasteland, as it is, as they move onto new pastures.

Similar problems have also been reported at the Rathlin Energy test drilling site at West Newton in Yorkshire. These casing leaks are thought to be caused by the seismic instability triggered by the fracking process, in which high pressure fluids are used to force open subterranean rock fissures, resulting in unpredictable fault line slippage and earth tremors.

On Saturday the Lancashire Association of Local Councils (LALC) at its AGM overwhelmingly approved a resolution that:

"LALC and NALC urge individual Parish & Town Councils to oppose applications for fracking in their areas, in recognition that the potential damage to the environment is irreversible and no payment from fracking companies can compensate for any such damage.’

Gina Dowding, Lancashire’s Green County Councillor said:

“The Health Impact Assessment raises far more questions about the health impacts of Fracking than it answers. The report is unable to specifically say that the industry is safe, and recommends that a number of safeguards are needed to protect against the risks. The report also says that many of these should be in place before any activity goes ahead by the industry. I think the public should be aware of  this report before Fracking takes root in our County:

“Firstly the chemicals used in the Fracking process in the USA have been linked to cancer and low birth weight in infants. Respected organizations like Breast Cancer UK - whose sole aim is to prevent breast cancer- are so concerned that they are calling for a moratorium on all exploration and licensing due to their concerns about the potentially adverse health effects of increased exposure to harmful chemicals.

"The industry should be required to prove beyond doubt before it starts drilling that it will not damage people's health - now or in the future. The suggestion in the report that a baseline study of the long term health impacts is needed is not going to be much use to anyone who develops cancer in a few years time as a result of the Fracking industry.

“Secondly the report acknowledges that the current regulations in place in the UK which are there to protect the public’s health are inadequate to properly regulate the Fracking industry.

"One of its 45 recommendations (R37) is that the Department of Energy and Climate Change should consider bringing the relevant regulations into a single onshore oil and gas specific regulatory framework to enable a safer and sustainable development of the industry.

“Lancashire County Council has already called for an industry-specific regulatory body to be set up and the Government has refused to do this. Until we have this, Lancashire’s residents cannot be sure that their health and environment will be properly protected.

 “There is actually very little substantial evidence of economic benefit to the local community, but it appears that Lancashire’s residents are being asked to bear the cost of all of the risks involved.”

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