Water supply '˜risk' protest by South Downs National Park residents

Concerns over possible water contamination at a proposed oil drilling site have been fuelled by an objection from a water company.

Wednesday, 19th October 2016, 3:41 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 12:38 am
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Residents are concerned that acidisation and other techniques to be used at Markwells Wood in Stoughton could pose a risk to a major water source.

But UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) insists there is no such risk to the aquifer and the dilute acid it would use is only ‘marginally stronger’ than toilet cleaners or other household products.

An objection filed on Tuesday by Portsmouth Water outlined several potential issues with the exploratory well plans, including the need to demonstrate all chemicals used during drilling were non-hazardous.

David Martin lives just 500 metres from the drilling site in the South Downs National Park. “Any risk to more than 300,000 people living off the water supply isn’t a risk worth taking,” he said.

Residents have banded together to form the Markwells Wood Watch campaign group to oppose the drilling site, and the parish councils of Stoughton, Rowlands Castle, Elsted and Rogate have all submitted objections.

Business-owner Fred Duncannon said he was concerned people would not want to visit the area if drilling went ahead, affecting his trade. “To have an oil well and all the additional traffic less than a kilometre down the road, it’s not the South Downs National Park that people imagine,” he said.

A UKOG spokesperson confirmed the acidisation would only be acid cleaning and not matrix or fracture acidising, which affect the rock formation itself.

UKOG chief executive, Stephen Sanderson said: “We fully recognise the importance of the chalk aquifer as a drinking water source and as a responsible, transparent and locally-based organisation, UKOG would not countenance any operation that would harm it.” He added that only ‘naturally-occuring’ substances would be used during drilling.

Portsmouth Water said it will review its position if UKOG addresses its objections with a revised groundwater risk assessment.

UKOG said it will hold monthly meetings with two community representatives to address concerns.

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