An internal report from Scotland’s environment watchdog warning of a “high risk” of water pollution from drilling for underground gas has been seized on by objectors in the run-up to a major public inquiry opening this week.
The report, written by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) in September 2012, reveals that a flawed and potentially leaky gas borehole was planned at Cumbernauld close to exploratory water wells dug by the maker of Irn Bru, A.G. Barr, and the international sausage skin manufacturer, Devro. There was also “poor borehole construction” at Canonbie, near the English border.
Environmentalists and community groups say that the food industry’s reputation is under threat from the dash to exploit unconventional gas in Scotland. They are preparing to fight plans, at a public inquiry starting on Tuesday, for the UK’s first commercial drilling for coalbed methane in Falkirk and Stirling.
But Sepa pointed out that it has toughened its regulatory oversight and that the Cumbernauld borehole hasn’t yet been drilled. A.G. Barr and Devro both stressed that they are using mains water for their products.
The Sepa report, marked “internal only”, was written by experts for its Water and Land Policy and Regulatory Support Group and released under environment information law. “The construction of deep boreholes presents a high risk to the water environment,” it says.