NI Water is to include a “no fracking clause” at the exploratory borehole site at Woodburn Forest on the outskirts of Carrickfergus.
The project by oil and gas exploration firm InfraStrata has led to concerns being expressed by environmental lobby groups about the potential for contamination of groundwater during the drilling.
However, East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs, who attended a recent public information session held by the company about the plans, has welcomed confirmation of the clause by Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy.
Mr Beggs said: “I met with NI Water and expressed my concern at potential risks to the Woodburn reservoirs and the public water supply from oil exploration and the potential for future fracking. This is particularly relevant given that test drilling is taking place within a water catchment area.
“I subsequently wrote to Minister Kennedy last month outlining my concerns at the potential for future fracking at this site, which may emerge from any test drill. I suggested that in any lease, an explicit ban on fracking should be included. “
The Ulster Unionist representative continued that he was pleased to receive written confirmation from Mr Kennedy “‘that the company has agreed to include a clause in the agreement with InfraStrata to prohibit the use of the technique known as hydraulic fracturing’”.
In his reply, Mr Kennedy also pointed out that NI Water has liaised with InfraStrata with regard to onsite operational activity.
A NI Water spokesperson told the TIMES on Tuesday: “NI Water is aware of the public concern regarding the proposed oil exploration work at Woodburn Forest and has agreed to include a clause in the agreement with InfraStrata that prohibits using the technique known as hydraulic fracturing (fracking), both now and in the future.
“NI Water is satisfied that this work will have no impact upon the public water supply.”
At one of two recent public information sessions held at the Clarion Hotel, InfraStrata, which has repeatedly ruled out fracking in its process, indicated the borehole would be sealed to prevent contamination.
Mr Beggs added: “I welcome these additional measures to assist in protecting the public water supply in the Carrickfergus area, both now and in the future.”
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