Frackable rock under groundwater aquifers raise water contamination fears
A study by the British Geological Survey and the Environment Agency reveals that almost all the the oil and gas bearing shales in England and Wales underlie drinking water aquifers, raising fears that widespread water contamination could occur.
The British Geological Survey (BGS) in partnership with The Environment Agency (EA) have published a map which show the depth to each shale gas and oil source rock below principal groundwater aquifers in England and Wales.
Along with the maps, the BGS/EA draws attention to the fact that almost half of the Principal Aquifers, most important for drinking water supply, are underlain by shales or clays that could be used for oil or gas production.
But it fails to mention the most striking fact: that almost all the potentially frackable rocks in England and Wales lie under aquifers - and that their exploitation could their contaminate drinking water supplies.
Where there's oil or gas, there's water
The BGS/EA do not reveal the actual figure, but a simple inspection of the two main maps released today (see image) shows that there is a strong correlation between the presence of oil and gas bearing rock, and that of aquifers.
Only about 5% (by visual inspection) of the frackable resource is in areas without aquifers, in an area centered on Leeds - but even this area is closely fringed by the most important 'Principal Aquifers', whose contamination would pose a severe threat to drinking water supplies for millions of people across the North of England.
Groundwater from aquifers provides 30% of drinking water in the UK and up to 70% of the drinking water in South East England making it one of the most important natural resources in the UK - a resource that needs effective long-term protection.
EA: 'it's all perfectly safe'
The Environment Agency requires fracking operators to produce detailed geological assessments, and hold 'groundwater permits' unless there is no significant risk to groundwater.
"Developments will not be allowed to go ahead if they are too close to drinking water sources", says the Environment Agency, and it "will not permit the use of chemical additives in hydraulic fracturing fluid that are hazardous to groundwater."
However the hazard to groundwater does not arise just from chemical additives, but also from the rocks themselves, which often contain heavy metals and radioactive isotopes of thorium, uranium, radium and radon.
Continue reading at ENN affiliate, The Ecologist.
Shale gas sign via Shutterstock.