Water fracking ‘mare! Fears for Somerset farmers

In recent months the residents of Somerset have suffered a deluge of water – and politicians in wellies – after some of the worst flooding in years. That’s one reason […]

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By Vicky Ellis

In recent months the residents of Somerset have suffered a deluge of water – and politicians in wellies – after some of the worst flooding in years.

That’s one reason why local MP Tessa Munt has her eye on the potential risk to groundwater from fracking for shale gas.

The Lib Dem MP is backing a report from six wildlife charities asking the Government to take another look at fracking regulations.

Her fears stem from the floods – and her concern for local farmers.

Ms Munt told ELN: “Everybody knows that Somerset’s had a bit of a problem with water.

“If there’s anything that’s going to affect the water in anyway then I think we’re going to have to be very clear about what those impacts might be because water is utterly crucial.”

 

She said Somerset’s farmers are of national important: “If there’s any danger to that infrastructure then I think we’d be mad because we produce food for a lot of the country from the cheddar cheese to the apples for cider.”

Fracking companies say they do have the right safety requirements – but it hasn’t stopped others being concerned by potential threats to water quality.

Paul Knight, CEO of the Water and Trout Association has concerns for what are known as Britain’s coral reefs.

He told ELN: “Chalk streams are very delicate environments. For people who know rivers, they’d say they are the classic, pristine environment. The water percolates down through chalk so it’s very filtered and pure when it comes out – or at least it should be if it didn’t have any other impacts on it.

“The lovely clean gravels, the weeds that one associates with chalk streams, the brown trout and the crayfish – all the species that really require pristine waters.”

 

He suggested the state of British waterways is already in a poor state: “Less than 25% of our rivers reach good ecological status under European legislation. Now that’s a hell of an indictment of the way we manage our rivers anyway.

“The chalk streams are right in an area of [potential] fracking. Not many of the rivers are actually protected. What we’re saying is, as a benchmark let’s not frack in those areas. Leave some areas to wildlife.”

Mr Knight added: “In England, we have 85% of the global resource of chalk streams. If we can’t protect our chalk streams, what can we protect?”