18th January

Fracking and fluoridation – how safe are these practices?

Inshore Ireland masthead This is the third consecutive issue of Inshore Ireland this year to feature hydraulic fracking, and the second to feature water fluoridation – two subjects that are attracting the interest - and concern - of many readers.

Under the Your View banner, County Cavan-based GP and spokesperson for the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN), Dr Carroll O’Dolan, paints a dismal picture of how he believes the process of high volume hydraulic fracking might impact on the environment and on public health.

Elsewhere in this issue we highlight a report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that summarises the current knowledge and potential environmental impacts of fracking.

This study was prepared for the EPA by Dr Dave Healey, a senior lecturer in Geomechanics at the Department of Geology and Petroleum Geology at the University of Aberdeen.

To its credit, the EPA document is timely and informative and manages to be a user-friendly guide to the key environmental issues impacted by the fracking process. The publication also delves into how this process is handled in the USA and throughout Europe – essential information for Irish readers. Since its publication however some eyebrows have been raised by the fact that the EPA commissioned Aberdeen University to compile this particular study.

Here again the much sought after twin objectives of openness and transparency come starkly into focus.

Was it a wise decision to opt for the University of Aberdeen - with its links to the North Sea petroleum industry – to write this report? And it would be interesting to know more about the tendering process, i.e. what other bodies tendered for the job?

By clarifying these questions, the EPA would be doing itself a favour by putting an end, once and for all, to the suspicions voiced by some on from the anti-fracking side.

Already there is growing unease in many of the communities here ear-marked for fracking trials. Surely, if anything has been learned from the public relations shambles that the Corrib project has become, is that the only way to win the confidence of those with legitimate concerns about the potential risks of fracking is to engage, inform and debate. Transparency is key. This is a trait sadly lacking in many State bodies.

It is still not too late in the growing fracking debate to avoid a repetition of what transpired in Bellanaboy: the wrenching apart of a tightly-knit community and a bitter legacy of polarised opinion.

The template for best practice does not have to be invented here. It is already available - the Norwegians have managed to do it (Inshore Ireland, 8.3) with marked success, and the EPA – which will oversee fracking in Ireland, would do well to look to that country for inspiration as to how to minimise future conflict.

Fluoridation impacts
On the subject of water fluoridation, we also feature an opinion piece by internationally- renowned scientist, Dr Roger Masters. The questions he raises is enough to make anyone - particularly with very young children – sit bolt upright and take notice!

His findings, – if true – on the long-term effects of mass fluoridation are, to say the least, terrifying.

His declared support for Irish anti-fluoridation campaigner and environmental scientist Declan Waugh (Inshore Ireland 8.4) and his contention that the key ingredient of fluoridation in Ireland and the USA – is “highly dangerous” raises immediate questions for both the Department of Health and the EPA.

Ireland’s freshwater resource is delicate and precious – we must progress carefully.

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