Shale gas drilling

Fracking could harm Bath hot springs council warns

The controversial "fracking" process of extracting shale gas could pose a threat to Bath's famous hot springs, the council warns.

Bath and North East Somerset Council have raised concerns that proposals for test drilling in the Mendip Hills could lead to exploitation of shale gas resources and that the process could harm the springs.

Shale gas is extracted by drilling down into the ground and then by "fracking", a process of hydraulic fracturing of the shale using high pressure liquid to release the gas.

Bath councillors fear the water courses supplying the springs could be contaminated by the process or that water could change direction through new fractures in the rock.

"There is great concern that the process of fracking will result in the water courses leading to the natural hot springs being contaminated with pollutants from this process, or for the waters to adopt a different direction of travel through new fractures in the underlying rocks," said Bath and North East Somerset council leader Paul Crossley.

"Bath and North East Somerset Council has obtained the very best expert advice on this matter and there is little to suggest that any thought has been given to the potential for damage to the deep water sources that supply the springs in Bath.

"Given the fact the hot springs are a crucial part of the tourist attraction that sustains thousands of jobs in the city, the council must stand up against these drilling proposals in the strongest possible terms."

Gerwyn Williams, director of Bridgend-based UK Methane, one of the companies behind the attempt to explore for gas in the area, said the plans did not currently include fracking.

"We have not and are not at this time making any proposals relating to fracking as part of our exploration process, all we do is take rock samples and analyse them," he said.

He said the same "high level of consideration" had been put into the possible pollution of water in the Bath area as in any other part of the country.

"We do appreciate the amount of jobs created by the hot springs in Bath through tourism," he added.

"Our work will not affect these jobs but has the potential to create thousands of new jobs throughout Somerset, not just concentrated in and around the city of Bath."

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