Pollution prevention & control, Waste management, Waste storage

“Dear Aunty, is it true that fracking makes cows sick?”

Oh goodness me, no dears. What a facile suggestion that is too.

Earlier this week, the Independent reported a peer reviewed study from the United States.

The article, sweeties, quotes how the study found evidence of fracking for shale gas being linked to cattle mortality and birth defects in the 24 farms that were studied.

Although the reporting explains this, it’s not made terribly clear that the causes were linked to surface spills of fracking flowback waste that cattle came into contact with and, one presumes, consumed.

So, to be clear cherubs, the study did not find any evidence that drilling, fracking or extracting gas caused these problems, just poor systems for handling the flowback waste.

This is important to note, my loves, because some frankly outrageous assertions are being made on social media that imply Lancashire’s agricultural sector faces an identical fate.

It does not.

The US experience isn’t necessarily a parable for the UK.

I say this, pumpkins, because there are significant regulatory and cultural differences at play.

For a start, I think it’s fair to say that our American cousins have a more ‘Gung-ho’ attitude to things – everything gets done bigger and faster – and perhaps that enthusiasm sometimes leads to what we, with our much more reserved ways, would see as cutting corners. Here, slow and steady wins the race. It’s just the British way, dears.

Then there’s our regulatory approach. The incidents referred to in the Independent are linked to the storage of flowback waste in open pits on or near the drill pads. We’d never allow that here, darlings, where instead we’ll see operators forced to store wastewater in metal tanks sat in what are known as ‘containment bunds’ that capture any spills.

We shouldn’t overlook the agricultural sector’s own, existing record on pollution either. It’s not an industry without its own problems. According to the Environment Agency, cherubs, in 2010 the agricultural sector in England and Wales was responsible for almost twenty ‘Category 1&2 pollution incidents’ to air and land, and over 60 serious water pollution incidents.

But nobody is suggesting that we ban farming.

So, dears, whilst it would be wrong of anyone to assert that there is absolutely no risk of any harm ever occurring, it is also quite, quite wrong to present it as a certainty and especially so on the basis of the US experiences reported in the Independent.

Until next time xxx

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