The fracking threat to Sussex water & health

We are delighted that our guest editor for this blog post is our new co-ordinator on all matters to do with fracking, Janel Rakow. Below is her write-up about a very important meeting about fracking that she recently attended in Hove:

The Fracking Threat to Sussex Water and Public Health

– A PUBLIC TALK ~ Wednesday 30th Oct 2013

It was a brilliant informative evening brought together by Ellie Wyatt and friends, this was the first meeting that Ellie had held. Approximately 200 people attended.

There were many familiar faces supporting the event from the Balcombe Community Protection Camp. My reason for attending was to see how a local anti Fracking meeting would be put together, who would be there to support such a meeting, and crucial networking.

Outside the venue, the first to greet me were familiar folk, all supporting anti Fracking bill boards. A warm greeting was received at the door, people were sitting in the reception area making relevant badges, a vast array of anti Fracking leaflets and posters giving clear information were in good supply. I entered the hall, to the left liquid refreshments and a table full of donated cakes. Donations for the cost of the venue and refreshments were invited. To my right were keen activists ready to gain my attention. All radiating welcome smiley faces, before I could say “I’m one of you”, the Brighton Friends of The Earth team of three had introduced themselves. It was great to chat with them, Brenda says “Hi”.

7.30pm start; Ellie opened the meeting and introduced Ian Crane. I had seen Ian on several occasions at the Balcombe protest site. His past works history in the Oil and Gas industry is most informative. Ian is currently touring the UK giving talks of his experiences and providing factual information. As he says “The truth, it doesn’t work in the way the oil companies claim”.

Ian was interested to know how many in the audience were “undecided“ if Fracking was beneficial or not to the UK consumer, about a dozen raised their hands.

Many of you may have seen the ‘Live Streaming’ of the evening. I will list a few Fracking facts Ian spoke of that are relevant to both the UK and South East area.

• There is no regulation for Fracking in the UK. The only regulation is off-shore drilling.

• The Gas on-shore industry wants to self- regulate.

• Our Government says there has been no proven case of environmental damage. In 2014 the Environmental agency is to expect job cuts of 30% . When this happens our government may use the ‘excuse’ that they do not have the manpower to regulate.

• In Australia it took 5 years before the population had grasped the damage caused by Fracking . This must not be the case in the UK. Our interwoven water ways are totally unsuited for this process. Our underground fault lines (particular to the UK) would provide pathways for any leaking fluids.

• 64% of the UK is deemed viable for shale gas or methane deposits. In the South East it is expected that many potential well sites will have licence applications. 5% of these wells will fail immediately causing untold damage to the environment and the health of the community.

• The recorded 2-3 earth quakes that occurred in Lancashire at the Caudrilla site is not a fair reflection of events. There were between 48-90 smaller seismic events in the area. These were deemed too small to mention. The facts are that many people’s homes were damaged, resulting in cracks in walls, and ceilings caving in. Unsurprisingly Blackpool’s property market has dropped.

• The flow back brine (once separated from the solid waste from the fracking site) was pumped back into the shipping canal! This brine waste is not suitable for farm land. This has been suggested, it is salt water brine which will damage the land. The toxic solid waste is now stored in tanks somewhere in the UK.

• There is no facility on the planet to safely dispose of these wastes. In the future double skinned tanks will be used for storage.

Thousands will cover the UK. If this solid toxic waste is disposed of back into the land it will cause seismic events and pollute our waterways.

After Ian had finished his presentation two more speakers from the Balcombe community spoke of their backgrounds and personal support to the recent summer protest. Both were interesting and informative regarding their own past, present, and future work ahead.

An open question and answer session then followed.

I asked the question of whether sea water could be used during the Fracking process in the South East? This question had been put to Professor Stiles at the recent South Downs National Park committee meeting re future fracking in the South East area (I had attended the recent Midhurst meeting). Professor Styles had said yes, with due processing it could be used. Ian firmly said that, “NO it could not”. Yet again the Gas presentation that was to convince the official committees and local communities that the process is viable and in this instance would not affect our ever low water table was deeply flawed. I also recall that Professor Styles had said that the brine flow back could be reused, so why was it dumped into the shipping canal ?

Just before the meeting was brought to a close Ian again asked for hands to be raised if anyone remained “undecided”, NOT A RAISED HAND IN SIGHT.

Before leaving the hall I chatted to Ian, he kindly gave me his contact number for any future support that may be needed should we wish him to attend our own meeting.

I also met Julia from Heathfield, she is working tirelessly on her own to raise awareness in her area. Heathfield is already under licence. I explained that our district extended to Hailsham, we exchanged contact numbers.

One of the biggest waves of support across the land has been from the Balcombe Protectors. They are a colourful, committed, forever growing group. They support all who strive to keep the UK free from Fracking.

by Eastbourne and District Friends of The Earth Anti Fracking Coordinator ~ Janel Rakow

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