CPRE Kent is calling on the Government to make East Kent a ‘frack free zone’ because of serious risks to the water supply if drilling took place.
It believes that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at the four potential drilling sites – Shepherdswell, Guston, Tilmanstone and Woodnesborough – could damage the aquifer which supplies 70% of the county’s water.
The gas and oil deposits are no more than 600-700m below the aquifer, the Chalk of the North Downs. Not only that, but there is a risk that geological faults in the area would be re-activated allowing gases and fracking fluids to leak into the chalk and so contaminate the water supply.
CPRE Kent has prepared a ministerial briefing outlining the serious threat to East Kent and is calling on the Minister of State for Energy Matthew Hancock to make East Kent an exclusion area from fracking.
CPRE Kent Vice President Richard Knox-Johnston said: “Water resources in Kent are already seriously stressed – there is a danger that if fracking went ahead we could damage the aquifer that provides most of the county’s water. Plus, we fear that water supply boreholes could be damaged causing pollution which would threaten public health as well as harm environmental quality, agriculture and wetland habitats.”
The charity has carried out extensive research into the geology of East Kent and faults dating back 150 million years, much of the evidence based on records from the Kent Coalfields.
“Fracking bans are now in place in parts of France, Germany, Austria, Spain and the Netherlands because of concerns over similar geological faults,” said Mr Knox-Johnston. “We are demanding the same for East Kent.”
He stressed that CPRE is not opposed to fracking, but the particular geology and location of the aquifer in East Kent make it a special case.
CPRE Kent warns that remediation of contaminated groundwater can be lengthy, expensive and sometimes fruitless – therefore major pollution must often be accepted as irreversible. Plus there are presently problems with the monitoring and regulation of fracking operations – firstly most instances of contamination will originate at depth and there may be a delay of months before evidence can be recorded at the surface, by which time most of the damage will be done; secondly, there are no means by which any regulator can predict the re-activation of a geological fault and the subsequent escape of contaminants.
It also warns that the operations will require 24-hour on-site monitoring by competent, independent inspectors and questions how this will be achieved when the regulatory bodies are already insufficiently staffed and facing further cuts.
The licence applications are due by 2pm on the 28th October 2014 for companies seeking to explore for onshore oil and gas. The licences provide the first step to starting drilling – but do not give absolute agreement to drill.
“Given the over-riding need to protect unique and increasingly vulnerable water resources, we have to say no to fracking in East Kent,” said Mr Knox-Johnston. “It is vital that the Minister listens to our concerns and recognises the very real danger we face.”
The full report, Shale Gas and Oil Exploration and Development in the Weald and East Kent: Water Resource Implications, can be read here.