Public meeting unites those against drinking water pollution

Markwells Wood Watch protested against the proposed oil drilling outside Portsmouth Guildhall last month
Markwells Wood Watch protested against the proposed oil drilling outside Portsmouth Guildhall last month
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MORE THAN 2,000 objections have now been lodged against an oil company’s bid to drill four oil wells in a national park.

And there could be more – as concerned members of the public met Markwells Wood Watch, a pressure group opposed to the industrial oil development, to discuss the progress of the case.

UK Oil and Gas (Ukog) wants to drill in the South Downs National Park.

Residents gathered at Forestside and Stansted Village Hall to learn that although it’s not considered hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a process known as acidisation or acid fracking would be used to ease the release of oil.

Emily Mott, joint campaign leader, said: ‘Lots of chemicals are involved in what the industry describes as new and innovative techniques.

‘Given the unique geology of Markwells Wood, some of those chemicals could migrate into aquifers.’

Markwells Wood in Forestside is above the aquifer which feeds Portsmouth. The Havant and Bedhampton Springs public water supply could also be affected.

Emily added: ‘The area provides fresh water to tens of thousands of people in the Portsmouth area.’

Ukog has been criticised for breaking a promise to disclose the chemicals it will use.

Markwells Wood Watch said it was pleased how many residents attended the meeting, where concerns over traffic, water safety, light pollution, and flaring and emissions were aired. Portsmouth Water and the Environment Agency have registered concerns about the drilling, along with a dozen local parish and district councils, and wildlife and environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth and the Woodland Trust.

Portsmouth councillors approved a motion of concern about the drilling at their last full meeting. It’s down to the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) to approve or deny Ukog’s application, but it won’t be determined until after January.

Havant Friends of the Earth member Ray Cobbett said: ‘Markwells Wood Watch has done a tremendous job in making people aware of the obvious dangers of drilling oil wells. There’s still time for people to object.’

See markwellswoodwatch.org.