Water contamination risk from drilling '˜unacceptable'

Oil drilling plans in Stoughton could pose '˜an unacceptable risk' to a public water supply, according to the Environment Agency.
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The Bedhampton and Havant springs provide water to 34 per cent of people in the area managed by Portsmouth Water, which supplies Chichester, Bognor and a significant region of the South Downs.

Controversy over the plans for exploratory oil wells in Markwells Wood has centred around contamination risks to the water source for several months.

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Applicant UK Oil and Gas said drilling would be safe and issued fresh documentation earlier this year in response to concerns.

But the EA’s second report found the revised information was still insufficient and urged the ‘precautionary principle’ to protect and manage the water source.

It read: “The development could pose an unacceptable risk to groundwater resources from which supplies of potable water are obtained.

“Further evidence based assessment of the hydrogeology at the Markwells Wood site is needed to show potential risks have been identified and understood.”

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Around 2,000 objections have been made to the plans ,including campaign group Markwells Wood Watch, which crowdfunded its own hydrogeological report last month.

The group is now putting pressure on the EA to change the status of the area around Markwells Wood to a Source Protection Zone 1, a level that would prohibit all drilling.

It is hoped a refusal at the site, which falls within the South Downs National Park, would set a precedent in the area.

Campaigner Reed Paget said: “UKOG has twice failed to do a proper job in assessing the risk to our drinking water.

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“We have never been convinced of their case and clearly the Environment Agency aren’t either.

“Oil production in this area is simply too risky.”

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