If you think the sinkholes are bad now, in the UK, just wait until next year….

Sinkhole drivewayby Ishtar Babilu Dingir

It’s taken me a while to put it together, but now a picture is beginning to form. If you look at a map of the licences to drill being offered to shale gas companies and compare it to the other map, showing where the more permeable bedrock of chalk, limestone and sandstone lays in the country, which support aquifers, it tells the story in itself. Fracking companies need aquifers for water; the water-storing aquifers are in geological areas which are prone to sinkholes.

Aquifers in England and Wales
aquifers in England and Wales

Where fracking licences are being offered
???????????????So I think the moral of the story is this: the sink holes we’ve seen appearing up and down the country this past month are just a small taster of what’s to come if the shale gas companies begin fracking in the UK.

One thing the shale gas industry needs is plenty of water, millions of gallons of it, and so they’re coming for our water, which is bad enough. But add to that the fact that we don’t know nearly enough about the workings of our subterranean system of waters, known as ‘groundwater’, means that we’re almost certainly playing Russian roulette with our futures.

Actually, Russian roulette would be safer because with that, there’s always an element of hope. With fracking, there are no empty bullet chambers and so any feeling of hope would only be irrational denial. We only have to look at what fracking has caused in America, where sink holes have swallowed up 100 foot trees and houses whole. There was a sinkhole in Ohio which devoured a piece of land the size of four football fields.

How will fracking create sinkholes here?

Our groundwater in Britain is stored in aquifers which are located in permeable and semi-permeable rock, in other words, rock which dissolves. It is dissolving rock, like chalk and limestone, which have been causing the sink holes, as they’ve filled up with water from the continual rain over the past month.

However, there is an extremely complex waterways network under the British Isles, which according to some expert geologists, may be interlinked and act as one complete and self-regulating mechanism. The trouble is, no-one really knows because it hasn’t been studied to any great depth. But we do know that it’s a very delicate system, that Nature manages it itself, and keeps the balance between the saline waters from the sea and the fresh water.

Most of this underground network doesn’t go along subterranean rivers through tunnels or caves, as one might imagine, but it diffuses through porous or semi-porous rock like chalk, sandstone and limestone. Like all liquids, it takes the course of least resistance …the resistance in this case being harder rocks, like shale. But shale, the harder rock upon which this complex system depends for its balance, is the very rock that the frackers want to break up to extract the gas.

So just in that one act alone – breaking up the shale – the whole finely balanced holistic system which has existed for billions of years, under our land, will be disrupted. Some of that water, kilometres down, has been there since the last Ice Age, and is around 20,000 years old. That’s what we’re messing with – a beyond-ancient self-regulating system that no human really understands.

When the frackers start to abstract their millions of gallons of water, as they will, the underground waters will start rushing around, trying to find a new equilibrium, just like white corpuscles rush around our blood circulatory systems to reach and heal the site of a wound. All of this will cause underground hollows and caverns, some that have been relatively empty for thousands of years, to suddenly fill up, empty and dissolve. This can only lead to one outcome … a plague of new sink holes opening up.

From Syria to Sevenoaks

We all in Britain rely on groundwater for one third of our drinking water, but in the south-east of the country, 70 per cent of their drinking water is made up of groundwater. So fracking will create unbearable pressure on Kent, Surrey and Sussex, which sit over chalk, and that region has already experienced the most sink holes this month.

According to the Environment Agency’s Underground, under threat: The state of groundwater in England and Wales (EA 2007):

“The south east of England is an area of particular concern. It is a highly populated area with relatively low annual rainfall. As a result, the supply of water in the south east of England is limited. Some parts have less usable water per person than countries such as Syria. Many more homes are due to be built in the area, putting even more pressure on the water supply.”

In other words, when there already isn’t enough groundwater to supply the south-east commuter belt of dormitory towns, what will happen when they start fracking the Weald and huge sink holes begin opening up across the crowded lanes of the M25?

A free-for-all land grab

Licences have been offered for shale gas companies to drill all over Somerset, which has recently seen so much flooding. But there has been a particular focus on the Mendips, the beautiful range of limestone hills to the south of Bristol and Bath, which overlook the Somerset Levels. However, because of the limestone, the Mendips have been named as an area at greater risk of sink holes.

Areas of Cheshire are also at risk, because of its salt deposits. Also Ripon, which is becoming known as the sink hole capital of the UK because of its gypsum (chalk) deposits. As you will see from the map (at the top of this post), all these places are being offered up, by “our government”, to the ever-avaricious, salivating jaws of the frackers, with no thought for the lives of the people living there.

There is also a question of sea water contamination. When a large amount of freshwater is abstracted from an aquifer, it ‘sucks in’ more water to replace it, and this could include sea water, known as saline water because it is salty. Thus our groundwater system, upon which one third of our drinking water comes, could very well become polluted with sea water without the hard shale walls in place to provide a natural barrier.

I haven’t even got the pollution aspect yet, from the chemicals used in fracking process … the chemicals which no fracking company will dare own up to.

But none of this has been considered, as far as I can see, in the current madness of the ‘dash for gas’ by the same energy companies that created the tar fields of Alberta.

If you haven’t heard of the tar fields of Alberta, please do have a look to see what these types are capable of when they’re let off the leash of any kind of regulation, as they will be here. They have irredeemably destroyed land bigger than England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland put together. Here’s a picture of just a small part of it….imagine that devastated Mordor-like wasteland spread throughout the whole of this country.

alberta tar sands

It couldn’t happen here…..? Why not?

There will be no law or fine to stop the energy companies turning Britain into a completely uninhabitable land of shale gas fields, with the energy company owners interests over-riding all others at cabinet level, where Lord John Browne of the fracking company Cuadrilla is responsible for ‘Business Ethics’ (now they’re just laughing at us!), and with the dozens of appointments he’s made to the Treasury and departments responsible for the environment and energy.

All I can say is, if fracking goes ahead, get ready for more sink holes …. much more sink holes… and much worse.

 


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2 comments

  1. Mark Carpenter

    The aquifers you are so concerned about are well above the shale and are not connected in any way. Sinkholes will not start appearing everywhere when fracking commences. Sink holes have been around for millions of years and always will be. The recent heavy rain just speeded up the process in some areas that were already susceptible. The environment agency are well aware of the quantities of water contained within the various aquifers and would also not allow contamination of the land or aquifers with the “harmful chemicals” you are so worried about. You obviously don’t know much about geology or the drilling process, so do me a favour and find out the facts before you spout your anti fracking rumours.

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    • therapybook

      We don’t usually publish rude comments, but I’m making an exception in your case because this is so patently disinfo and you sound as if you have shares in fracking yourself, otherwise why be so rude about it? The fracking companies need the aquifers because they use billions of gallons of water in their processes, and that’s why they’re being offered drilling licences very near to them. That’s how they’re connected. You seem to have no understanding that the aquifers are part of one huge network of groundwater and that there will be knock on effects to it. The sink holes which started appearing recently were due to aquifer action, and were unprecedented in their number. You seem to have great faith in an industry which has decimated huge swathes of land wherever it has drilled, across the world, leaving behind terrible problems of water contamination and sinkholes. You also seem to have great faith in the Environment Agency, but don’t you realise that most of those driving policy at the EA have shares and board positions in the fracking companies themselves? It is the Environment Agency which through their neglect allowed the flooding of the Somerset Levels. He who doesn’t learn from history is destined to repeat it. Good, honest people who care about this country will be doing everything they can to stop the same devastation occurring here. If you want us to publish any more of your comments, please leave out the rudeness.

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