The Northern Ireland Environment Agency is currently undertaking a consultation on Significant Water Management Issues. The deadline for responses is 22nd June 2014. Email and postal addresses are included below.
The consultation documents for each of NI’s three river basin districts refer to the risks posed by mineral extraction and refer to unconventional gas exploration and extraction. They all say the same thing. Here is an extract from the North Eastern River Basin District consultation document, p31. [emphasis added].
“Pollution of surface waters can occur as a result of run-off from the land area around a quarry or mine, hydrocarbon or herbicide spills, excess herbicide or fertiliser applications, run-off from soil and spoil heaps which may contain toxic metals and phosphates. Pollution of surface waters can also occur indirectly by pollutants being transported in groundwater.
Mineral extraction by its very nature poses risks to groundwater. Removal of the overlying land in the working area means that the vulnerability of the groundwater to pollution is increased as the natural protection is removed. Therefore, it is important that proper precautions are taken to ensure the risk of pollution is minimized. Pollutants may include oils, fuels and hydraulic fluids, metals (for example, Cadmium, Mercury), pesticides, flocculants used in settlement ponds and nutrients.
Unconventional gas exploration and extraction refers to the use of high volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of previously impermeable rock to permit the extraction of natural gas on a commercial scale from unconventional sources such as shale gas deposits, coal seams and tight sandstones. At present, there is no exploratory or commercial drilling underway in relation to this in Northern Ireland.
What are we already doing about this?
New legislation was introduced through the Planning Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 which requires the initial review of old mineral permissions. Mineral mapping has been undertaken to highlight where specific reserves are located, what type they are and what constraints exist in the form of environmental designations. Northern Ireland Government Departments, through the shale gas Forum, are in the process of identifying the regulatory framework applicable to onshore oil and gas exploratory activities in Northern Ireland, and the linkages between the existing regulatory regimes. Such activities may include high volume hydraulic fracturing. As part of the planning process, NIEA requests hydrological risk assessments for quarries, to assess risks from dewatering and how they can be mitigated. NIEA provides guidance notes for applicants.
Possible options that could be put in place?
Significant all-Ireland research project to be scoped that will contribute to providing the evidence base for the regulation of fracking.”
(North Eastern River Basin District, http://www.doeni.gov.uk/niea/swmi-north-eastern-reduced-size-2.pdf p31.)
NI’s three river basin districts are:
North Eastern River Basin District – Bush, Glens & Rathlin, Larne Lough, Belfast Lough, Lagan, Strangford, Quoile and South Down
North Western River Basin District – Faughan, Roe, Burn Dennet & Foyle, Strule, Derg & Mourne, Owenkillew, Lough Melvin & Arney, Upper Lough Erne and Lower Lough Erne
Neagh Bann River Basin District – Ballinderry, Moyola, Lough Neagh, Lower Bann, Braid and Main, Six Mile Water, Upper Bann, Blackwater and Carlingford & Newry
People can respond to this consultation at a general or local catchment level.
The consultation questions are the same for each area:
1. What do you consider to be the most significant issues affecting the water
environment in the North Eastern [or other] River Basin District?
2. What do you consider to be the most significant issues affecting the water
environment in your Local Management Area?
3. How do you think these issues should be addressed, and what would you choose to do first?
4. Are there any projects that we could work on in partnership to help improve the water environment in North Eastern [or other] River Basin District?
Here is a very simple response you can use as a template, although putting it in your own words would help: (A more detailed version will be added later.)
This consultation is open from the 22nd December 2013 to 22nd June 2014. You can respond by :
• sending a response by e-mail to: email@example.com
• sending a written response to:
River Basin Planning – Consultation,
Water Management Unit
17 Antrim Road