Above: Photos submitted to the Don’t Drill Aintrim page by residents of a hydrocarbon spill in a water course which crosses the Infrastrata drill. Followed by the letter from the head of planning to Infrastrata and our own interview with local residents.
Some weeks ago rabble traveled to Woodburn outside Belfast to chat to concerned locals about the activities of a company called Infrastrata. Today was a bad day for them.
It was announced early this morning that Infrastrata had started to drill in the forest. There is an estimated 25 million barrels of oil within the Woodburn Forest prospect.
However, for locals the concern is over their drinking water, with a huge mistrust of NI Water’s claims that the project is not going to affect the water catchment area. A number of weeks ago, reservoirs were closed amidst fears of toxic contamination.
Niamh Scullion, who visited the Woodburn site shared her concerns about the project on social media:
“This is where our water comes from. Farmers arent allowed to spray fertilizer or even graze their sheep near the Woodburn reservoir yet shite council and DOE and NI water decisions means Infrastrata are now about to start drilling for oil and have a 50 yr lease on land in the catchment area. I’ve been hearing about the good work the#stopthedrill people have been doing for months but today was the first time I’ve had a chance to see it all first hand. Please call up and get informed about this state sanctioned madness whether it’s your water or not.”
There’s also concern about the relationship between Infrastrata and elements of the council, with the publication of an email showing The Head of Planning deferring to the drill company for advice on questions sent in by a member of the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
The Don’t Drill Aintrim Water page posted saying:
“On this very sad morning following Infrastrata’s spudding of their first Petroleum well in Northern Ireland at Woodburn Forest near Carrickfergus, Stop The Drill have some very serious questions for NI Water the landlord of the site which was unlawfully leased to the company. We also have a number of questions for Mid and East Antrim Council following the disclosure that the Head of Planning, Paul Duffy asked Infrastrata for help in responding to questions from councillors about this project.”
Among the contentious issues are the annexation of a lane way by the company and a rake of safety measures that campaigners have identified as missing, these include a Drinking Water Safety plan and a Strategic Eviroment assessment.
Judging from the stream of activity on social media, activists are turning Woodburn into a site of opposition to resource extraction.
There have already been several stand offs between protesters and police, including two arrests for obstruction one back in February and Mark Chapman last week. Upon arrest Mark Chapman said:
“I’m upholding environmental law. My understanding is that it is possible to commit a small crime to prevent a larger one.”
Among events on the horizon is a rave, that openly takes a lead from the UK anti-road’s movement of the 1990s.
The organisers say:
“We want this to be BIG so invite everyone!!! The more people the better, this is important and we need to get the attention of the media and people who don’t give a toss. So all DJs, performers, bands, dancers, ravers, activists, party people come down and bring your granny for good measure.”
Someone go organise a bus.