Fracking firm was barred from using chemical, Balcombe meeting told, Environment Agency blocked use of antimony trioxide but allowed use of oxirane despite protesters’ concerns by Fiona Harvey and Adam Vaughan, October 10, 2013, The Guardian
The UK’s fracking pioneer Cuadrilla was prevented by the Environment Agency from using a hazardous chemical at its drilling site in Sussex, local residents have been told. But permission was granted for another chemical despite concerns over its safety. Chris Wick, of the Environment Agency, told a packed meeting of residents in Balcombe’s church on Wednesday night that “we stopped Cuadrilla using one or two things”. The chemical that was banned was antimony trioxide. The Environment Agency told the Guardian: “Companies wishing to inject fluid containing pollutants into the ground may need a permit from the Environment Agency. Permits are issued on a site-by-site basis, considering the proximity to groundwater. “As part of this process Cuadrilla submitted a list of chemicals to the Environment Agency for assessment and were advised that they would not be allowed to use antimony trioxide, as it would be hazardous if it came into contact with groundwater.” Cuadrilla said there had been a dialogue with the agency, after which it had decided not to press ahead with the use of antimony trioxide.
The other substance under question was oxirane. Known as an oxygen scavenger, it is used to prevent corrosion, but protesters and villagers at Balcombe have raised concerns over its potential hazards. Cuadrilla said it was not used in Balcombe but was unable to confirm whether it had been used at other sites. … The Environment Agency said any expansion of drilling and fracking in the south-east of England could cause problems with local water supplies. Water shortages, including hosepipe bans, have been a problem in some recent years in the region, because of the density of population, a relative lack of reservoirs and the needs of farming. Wick said water use was “relatively modest” at the current Balcombe site, where no fracking has yet taken place, but the issue of water availability would have to be studied for each project brought forward. “The big question mark is over cumulative demand for water in the south-east should this industry take on a much bigger size,” he said. There were no voices raised in support of fracking but a volley of concerns, from questions over the noise and impact on water supplies to rumours that depleted uranium had been used. (The Environment Agency said it had not.) The meeting was excitable but the two police people on duty at the back of the church had no need to intervene.
Robert Greer, a local resident, told the Guardian: “[The meeting was a] PR exercise that demonstrated a lack of appreciation of how much the residents of Balcombe have had to learn about the industry, instigated by the impotence of the agencies appointed to protect us and the half-truths they have continually provided as excuses. The meeting only reinforced the view that the powers of the EA and the local authorities have been neutered by central government.” … One resident said she was glad the protesters had gone – “it was fun for a while, but then not any more” – but remained to be reassured over the potential effects of fracking. “We are farmers, we are very worried about the effects this might have on the water and the land.” [Emphasis added]