NI Water say Woodburn drilling will not affect water supply

Campaigners have been showing their opposition to the project over recent weeks. INNT 12-803CON
Campaigners have been showing their opposition to the project over recent weeks. INNT 12-803CON

NI Water has once again stressed that proposed work at Woodburn will not have a detrimental impact on Larne’s water supply.

The company made the claim after concerns were raised by an environmentalist from Ballyclare, who said the water supply for Larne and its surrounding areas may become contaminated as a result of the planned work at the site.

Although Woodburn Reservoir does not supply water to Larne, the member of the Permaculture Association, who wished to remain anonymous, said that it may become contaminated through the process of ‘soak’.

The environmentalist said that if the reservoir or the rivers around it became contaminated as a result of the drilling at the site, water from the contaminated areas may come into contact with rivers and streams which were not firstly contaminated.

He claimed that with the overlap of flood plains of rivers and streams close to the drilling site, any cases of flooding that occur if water is contaminated, may contaminate rivers in the Larne region.

A spokesman from NIW said: “It is being undertaken by an independent company, Infrastrata, under a licence awarded by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI). All work is subject to the approval and agreement of the relevant authorities including the NIEA and Forest Service. Infrastrata cannot drill a permanent well without obtaining planning permission. The safeguarding of water quality is of primary importance to NI Water, and the company is satisfied that the proposed work will have no detrimental impact upon the impounding reservoir or the wider public water supply, either at Woodburn reservoir or elsewhere in NI.”

A spokesperson from InfraStrata said: “The wellsite will be made fully watertight preventing any liquids on the site from penetrating the ground below and will be surrounded by a high bund to trap all fluids, for safe and professional disposal. This will ensure there will be no adverse impact on the Woodburn River and local water catchment.”

Larne TUV Councillor and East Antrim Assembly candidate Ruth Wilson has called for a rethink on the drilling site.

The TUV representative said: “The ongoing controversy surrounding Woodburn Forest and the test drilling for oil and gas is causing genuine concern which I have reflected in my contributions to council on the issue.

“While there are concerns about the impact on wildlife, particularly breeding birds, it is the risk of water contamination which should be taken particularly seriously.

“TUV has a clear and united view on the matter. We opposed going forward with the plan and would urge further investigation of the issue.

“TUV does not have an ideological position on the opportunities presented by drilling but in this instance we believe it is essential to achieve a robust balance between the opportunities and the possible environmental impacts.

“It is also vital that more attention and consideration is given to the views of local people who remain adamantly opposed to the drilling,” she said.

Meanwhile East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson has expressed his hope that the courts this week will ensure that action is taken to prevent any further disruption of the drilling by InfraStrata at Woodburn forest by those who have sought to stop work on the site.

“It is important that the courts do not let them disrupt work any further. Any workable economy depends upon the rule of law and property rights being enforced by the state. The company have leased the land, legitimately obtained the planning permissions and licence required to carry out their exploratory drill, have accepted the conditions and safeguards imposed on their work and invested millions of pounds in the operation,” said Mr Wilson.