Valley Organics, source of buckwheat and anti-fracking news

OK, I picked up a 55p bag of yellow split peas at the Coop today, but a wish for buckwheat led me to Valley Organics, where I found not only buckwheat but an irate shopper complaining that I Gas, the company fracking Barton Moss in Salford, had been discharging radioactive fracking waste water into Manchester Ship Canal.

I recognised him from the anti-fracking meeting addressed by Kirklees Green Party Councillor and Green MEP candidate, Andrew Cooper

But before I could say “radioactivity”, he had vanished out the door, so I asked the guy he’d been talking to if he knew anything about this.

He didn’t, and suggested I search online. So I did.

I haven’t found any information about I Gas dumping radioactive fracking waste water from Barton Moss into the canal, so if anyone knows anything about this, please let UCV Plain Speaker know.

This is what I did find: a collection of news reports, together with the Environment Agency’s 2011 Report on Shale Gas: North West- Monitoring of Flowback Water. These are all Storified, below.

Here is a brief summary of the reports, in case you don’t have an hour to read them all.

Cuadrilla dumped almost 2m gallons of radioactive fracking waste water into canal in middle of Salford

Radioactive fracking waste water discharged into Manchester Ship Canal came from Cuadrilla’s fracked well at Preese Hall on the Fyle. Before October 2011, Cuadrilla dumped almost 2 million gallons of radioactive fracking waste water, or “flowback” water, after it had been treated at Preese Hall site, according to United Utilities. United Utilities then released the water into the canal from its wastewater treatment plant in Davyhulme, Salford.

This was legal at the time, because until new EU regulations came in in October 2011, Cuadrilla had been allowed to classify the fracking waste water as industrial effluent and the Environment Agency authorised its discharge as such.

New EU law stopped discharge of fracking waste into canal

But since October 2011, flowback has been considered under European law to be radioactive waste, and cannot be disposed of in this way.

The Environment Agency have known about this since they published the 2011 report on monitoring flowback, which is Storified below.

The 2011 EA Report states,

“from 1 October 2011, new [higher] limits for radioactive materials were specified in Schedule 23 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.”

From then on, Cuadrilla needed a permit to continue discharging flowback to the waste water treatment works/canal, because the levels of radioactivity and other pollutants measured in the Cuadrilla flowback from the Preese Hall well, combined with the expected quantities of flowback fluid, exceeded the new limits.

Once the EA stopped the flowback water discharge into the Manchester Ship Canal, the Cuadrilla flowback fluid was being stored in double skinned tanks on the fracking site, pending a permit application.

Stop Fylde Fracking reported that the Environment Agency (EA) later awarded Cuadilla an exemption to shift the 18,000 gallons of the remaining flowback water that were stored in tanks at Preese Hall, so that too was dumped into the canal.

Compared with drinking water this flowback has around 50 times the rate of arsenic, radium 226 at 90 times the Agency’s radioactive threshold level and 1400 times the lead content.

Cuadrilla stopped its fracking because it couldn’t any longer get rid of the waste water

Cuadrilla stopped its fracking at Preese Hall, because of the problem of disposing of the waste flowback water under new EU regulations.

The Stop Fylde Fracking group reported that a recent (27 Jan 2014) BBC1 North-west TV programme, Inside Out,

“highlighted the fact that the EA is unlikely to grant Cuadrilla any further permits until it has revealed its treatment plans. Apparently, there are no waste processing companies who are suitable in the North West. It’s likely that the waste will have to be transported, by supertankers, to plants in Leeds or Stoke. We could be looking at 10,000 trucks per super pad, which is a lot of heavy traffic on both our rural roads and motorways.
By concentrating on [naturally occurring radioactive material] NORM, the Inside Out programme omitted to cover the other nasties that make up the flow back water. NORM is all around us and while we don’t want undue expose to it, it is, apparently, not very dangerous. What are concerning are the other metals and minerals which are far more harmful to public health.
In an exchange between the EA and local oil and gas engineer Mike Hill, the EA provided the following breakdown of the flow back from Preese Hall:
Lead (μg/l) between 90 and 100. Mains water is at <0.417 . So approx 1438 times normal.
Cadmium (μg/l) 6.02. Mains water is at <0.04 . So approx 150 times normal.
Magnesium (mg/l) 397. Mains water is at <9.21 So approx 43 times normal.
Chromium (μg/l). 222. Mains water is at <0.349 So approx 636 times normal.
Aluminum (μg/l). 596. Mains water is at <8.04 S So approx 197 times normal.
Benzene needs to be added to this cocktail too.”

Barbara Keeley, Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South,  said,

“It would be alarming to people living in Salford if it proves to be the case that such a large volume of radioactive water from shale gas fracking operations was discharged legally into the Manchester Ship Canal.

“I would have questions for the Environment Agency about this and it may be that Salford City Council will want to look at these reports too.

Flowback has since October 2011 been considered under European law to be radioactive waste, and cannot be disposed of in this way.”

Kate Green, Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston, said,

“I am extremely concerned that radioactive waste water has been released into our local waterways.
“Local residents are rightly worried, which is why I have written to the chief executive of United Utilities to ask for a full explanation of their involvement with waste water from fracking.

The Storified reports follow.

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