NI Water and Stop The Drill group present to council

Signs erected at the Woodburn Forest site.  INCT 07-728-CON
Signs erected at the Woodburn Forest site. INCT 07-728-CON

Representatives from both NI Water and a group opposed to the exploratory drilling at Woodburn presented to the council on Monday evening.

The decision to invite the representatives of both NI Water and Stop The Drill to address the council was taken at the February meeting.

Concerns have been raised by groups opposed to the exploratory drilling close to Woodburn reservoirs, with many environmental campaigners claiming that there is a threat of contamination to the drinking water supply of areas including parts of Newtownabbey and Belfast.

InfraStrata, an independent petroleum exploration and gas storage company, is set to start drilling 400m from the North Woodburn Reservoir in the coming months.

At the February meeting, Sinn Fein Cllr Michael Goodman put forward a motion asking the council to call for “an urgent review” of the decision to permit the exploratory drilling, with a view to “reversing that permission”.

He also called on the council to “express concern that InfraStrata have been granted permission to conduct exploratory petroleum drilling at this location using harmful chemicals”- a claim disputed by the company, which insists it will be using “standard industry products.”

Cllr Phillip Brett proposed an amendment that the council “notes Woodburn Reservoir supplies water to parts of Newtownabbey and invites representatives from NI Water and the opposition group to the relevant council committee to make a presentation on the current situation.”

The representatives from NI Water were Alec McQuillan, Dymphna Gallagher and Maynard Cousley.

They told council officials: “The security and safety of the public water supply is NI Water’s top priority. We wouldn’t carry out, or permit any activity which would jeopardise the quality of the water delivered to our customers. We have carried out a detailed analysis of the risks to the public water supply in the Dorisland catchment.”

Majella McCarron and Fiona Joyce spoke on behalf of the Stop The Drill campaigners. They highlighted a number of issues including claims that residents were not consulted and called on the council to bring a motion to call NI Water to terminate the exploration agreement and licence.