The Environment Agency has today (Monday) granted a permit to energy exploration company Cuadrilla to manage wastes generated at its Balcombe site which may contain naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM).
The potential for NORM to be brought from underground rock layers to the surface during oil and gas drilling, or to contaminate ground water sources, is one of the major causes of concern for people opposed to drilling close to homes and centres of population.
Under the environmental regulations Cuadrilla was required to apply for a further permit to manage any waste water or solid waste generated during well testing at its site in Balcombe.
This waste may contain low levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), which are present in many types of rocks.
This permit is required to ensure safe disposal of any waste that may fall within the scope of the regulations.
Cuadrilla, which has now left the Balcombe site, did not need this permit to drill a borehole. But it will need it if it returns to the site to carry out well testing in the future.
At the moment, Cuadrilla is not proposing to carry out any hydraulic fracturing (fracking) as part of this activity.
Before reaching its decision, the Environment Agency reviewed concerns sent to it by local people during a six week consultation with communities, interested groups and other organisations.
The permit now issued requires the company to manage its waste effectively in order to protect local people and the environment.
The Environment Agency says its officers will now enforce these operating conditions.
Chris Wick of the Environment Agency said: “We would like to thank all those people who responded to this consultation.
“If the well testing goes ahead we will monitor Cuadrilla’s operations and work with other regulators to ensure that the activity does not cause harm to people and the environment.”
The environmental permits and the decision documents outlining how the government agansy reached its decisions are available here.
On October 9, officers from the Environment Agency will face an audience of nearly 275 residents of Balcombe who have been invited to attend a questions and answers session. The event is to be held at St Mary’s Parish Church, which was chosen as thew building in the village with the largest capacity.