East Antrim Ulster Unionist Party representative Roy Beggs MLA has questioned the Infrastructure Minister on the costs to NI Water associated to the Woodburn exploration drilling project, following the disclosure that £25,585.86 was spent during the project.
Mr Beggs MLA asked the Minister to “detail how £25,585.86 was spent by NI Water in relation to the Woodburn exploration drilling project, to detail the income that they received as a result of the lease and to give details of the business case assessment made by NI Water before agreeing to this lease arrangement.”
In response the Department advised that the breakdown of expenditure by NI Water included legal costs of £20,986.50, staff costs of £1,937.84, contractor costs of £815.76 and analytical costs of £1,845.76. This was offset by the pro rata figure of £29,096.77 that NI Water received through the licence agreement.
Mr Beggs said “I was shocked to see that NI Water had paid out nearly £21,000 in legal costs as a result of the project. When you take into account the figure for the licence agreement offset against the expenditure, NI Water made £3,510.91. You would have to ask the question whether for a few thousand pounds, was it truly worth the risk to the local environment to allow the exploratory borehole to go ahead as a “permitted development” within the water catchment area?
In conclusion Roy Beggs MLA said, “The decision to lease land within the Woodburn Dam catchment area for an exploratory oil drill site introduced huge risks to the public water supply. In the end NI Water, recognising the risk to the water supply even had to prevent all water from the drill catchment area from entering the dams. When you consider the risks, the listed costs and the addition efforts of staff members diverted from their normal duties it is clear to me that the decision by the NI Board was problematic. I would hope that NI Water will recognise the folly of their decision to lease the land for drilling and that our water supply will not be exposed to such risks in the future.