Fermanagh, Sligo, Leitrim and Cavan water supplies threatened by fracking
On this week, when the EU Energy Ministers are discussing unconventional gas in Europe, and Tamboran are planning to drill a 1,000m deep exploratory well in Fermanagh, a new danger from fracking in Ireland has come to light. The water supplies of Counties Fermanagh, North Leitrim, South Donegal, North Cavan, North Sligo and Sligo Town, and the World Heritage Site at Marble Arch Caves would be under threat if hydraulic fracturing is used to extract gas from shales. This is a conclusion reached by GEAI hydrogeologist, Davide Galazzi.
“We are playing with fire. The shale layer where Tamboran is planning to use hydraulic fracturing is packed like a sandwich between two major aquifers, Ballyshannon Limestones and Dartry Limestones, providing water to the above areas. The Dartry Limestones are also the rock embedding the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Marble Arch, the world-wide importance of which cannot be over- emphasised.”
He warned that these aquifers could become contaminated in the process. “During hydraulic fracturing, which uses millions of gallons of frack fluid containing toxic chemicals at high pressure, fractures (or cracks) are created in the shale to release the gas. These fractures can go in any direction, downwards as well as upwards, and nobody can forecast how far they will travel.
In a situation where there is a very short distance between the shale and the limestone layers, a distance which is far less than the minimum threshold (700m) recommended by recent studies from the UK, there is a high risk of this fluid being forced into those aquifers during hydraulic fracturing.
In addition, the fracking area is extremely close to the locations of water supplies and actually on the shores of Lough Erne and Lough Gill, which provide water to the whole of County Fermanagh, North Leitrim, Sligo Town and surrounding villages. There is no guarantee that water contaminated with fracking chemicals, heavy metals and volatile petroleum products could not make its way to the areas from which drinking water is sourced.”
“We are very alarmed at this finding, which concludes that there is a high risk of contamination of the sources of our drinking water from fracking”, said Aedín McLoughlin, GEAI Director. “The Ballyshannon and Dartry limestones extend throughout most of the licensed area. Without any barriers between the shale layer and the limestones, these Regionally Important Aquifers are endangered by hydraulic fracturing. The EU Water Framework Directive says that ‘Water is not a commercial product like any other, but rather, a heritage which must be protected, defended and treated as such’. Where there is intense fracking, as is planned for Ireland, water contamination inevitably results. We have a duty to our children and our children’s children to leave our surface and ground waters in as pure a state, or even better, than we find them. Fracking must not be allowed to endanger that heritage.”
It is an offence to pollute groundwater under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts of 1977 and 1990.