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Second oil spill in a fortnight at Woodburn Forest site

NI Water and the Environment Agency have confirmed that an oil spill occurred at the Woodburn Forest site at the weekend.
John Monaghan

THERE has been a second oil spill at the site of an exploratory oil drill project in Co Antrim, two statutory agencies have confirmed.

The spill, at the InfraStrata site at Woodburn Forest near Carrickfergus, was observed on Sunday afternoon and assessed by the Environment Agency on Monday.

The NIEA said "no source" had been identified for the "minor volume of fuel or hydraulic oil" but added that the company had been informed of the spill.

It comes just a fortnight after InfraStrata said a "very minor mineral oil spillage" had occurred over the Easter weekend at the site.

A NIEA spokeswoman said "three similar" reports of potential pollution had been received on Sunday evening and an inspector was sent out on Monday morning.

She said: "The inspector confirmed the presence of some surface oil sheening in the area that would be consistent with the loss of a minor volume of fuel or hydraulic oil.

"No source for the oil spillage was confirmed as there were no vehicles or oil storage facilities in the immediate vicinity of the spillage."

The spokeswoman added: "The drilling company were informed of NIEA’s observations on Monday morning and a 'pollution prevention' advisory visit will be conducted by NIEA, scheduled for later this week, to identify if there are any potential pollution sources or risks associated with the current activities on the site.

"Should NIEA identify any such pollution risk, then action to address the risk will be requested in line with set procedures."

A NI Water spokeswoman said it had also received reports of a spill.

"NIEA have confirmed to NI Water they have inspected the site and were satisfied it was a small amount of oil that did not affect any adjacent water courses. No samples were taken and no further action was required.

"NI Water also carried out an inspection following the report. Staff noticed a small amount of oil but found no evidence of any contamination of any adjacent water courses, and there are no concerns regarding water quality.

The spokeswoman added: "NI Water can assure the public that our absolute priority at all times remains the safety and integrity of the water supply."

Those objecting to the drill are concerned about the potential impact on water supplies provided by Woodburn reservoir to thousands of homes across Co Antrim.

The Stop the Drill campaign group said it believed the previous leak was caused by an excavator being used to secure fencing on the site, where exploratory drilling is expected to begin in May.

Last week Sinn Féin MLAs Gerry Kelly and Oliver McMullan met with InfraStrata representatives to discuss concerns about the project and urged the company to "meet directly" with protesters.

InfraStrata did not respond to a request for comment from The Irish News.

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