MP secures pledge on fracking water pollution in Lewes district

editorial image

Lewes MP Norman Baker has won assurance from Chris Smith, Chairman of the Environment Agency, that local water sources will be protected from pollutants from any fracking activities at Balcombe or elsewhere.

Lord Smith has also confirmed that there will be no oil investigation sites in East Sussex in the foreseeable future.

Mr Baker had contacted the Environment Agency raising concerns regarding the ongoing Balcombe operation and the potential for expansion of this industry to new sites across the south east.

Lord Smith gave assurances that groundwater will be adequately protected, both near the surface and at-depth. Furthermore, he promised that local springs and wetlands will be given a high degree of protection.

This reassurance comes following recent suggestion that poorly regulated fracking sites in the United States have leaked pollutants into local water supplies.

Lord Smith also responded to Mr Baker’s concerns regarding the potential for new sites, particularly in East Sussex.

Already in West Sussex it has been confirmed that there are a total of nine sites at various stages of development.

This includes three operational permitted oil production sites, one partially permitted oil investigation site (Balcombe), three pre-application-stage proposed oil exploration sites, and there are two proposed oil investigation sites that are not permitted and have no current planning permission.

Mr Baker said: “If fracking is to go ahead, and clearly that is controversial, it is vital that the environment is fully protected.

“Local wetland habitats will be particularly vulnerable should work continue, with important eco-systems, including the Ouse Valley and Ashdown Forest, at particular risk from any water contamination.

“The Chair of the Environment Agency has given me an absolute assurance it is treating this matter seriously in terms of its duty to conserve the natural landscape.

“I have also raised my concerns that when future licences become available, areas in East Sussex may be open to development.

“Furthermore, I have asked for assurances that the local water infrastructure is robust enough to withstand any additional pressures placed upon it by the expansion of operations.

“I would not want to see the water resources available to local residents affected in any way.”