Nearly a year ago, at the height of the UK floods, on 8th February 2014, tragedy struck an ordinary family in Chertsey, Surrey, when water rose in their home and suddenly all were taken ill. Zane, a beautiful bright 7-year-old boy who had just won his green stripe belt at martial arts class, and who was described by his headmaster as a “larger than life” figure, died that night. Both his parents were taken ill, and his father, Kye, remains paralysed from the waist down.
The cause of death and harm remains unknown nearly a year later. Initial reports suggesting carbon monoxide poisoning from water pumps were later discounted. But firemen at the scene detected hydrogen cyanide, later confirmed by Public Health England.
The family discovered their home was built next to an old and potentially toxic landfill site that the Environment Agency knew about, ordering gas-proof membranes to protect their own staff when they built cabins nearby.
This week, the family told Talk Fracking that the authorities, including the Environment Agency, have been “walls of silence”.
In response to questions about climate change, the Met Office confirmed that the flooding was “consistent with what is expected from the fundamental physics of a warming world”, thus increasing the potential dangers that flooding could compromise more landfill sites.
In a recent submission to the Environmental Audit Commission, researcher and consultant Paul Mobbs analyses the water treatment and waste management associated with fracking. He forecasts a 50% increase in hazardous waste landfill, a staggering quarter of a million tonnes.
In December, Talk Fracking gave the Government some Christmas reading in the form of scientific reports on the health dangers of fracking. They included the Government’s own scientific advisor warning that fracking could join historic scandals such as asbestos, thalidomide, and lead in petrol.
Energy Minister, Matthew Hancock replied to Talk Fracking this week, citing two reports, one a three-year old study by the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the other by Public Health England. In his reply he concedes that both reports call for effective regulation and strong enforcement to bring the health, safety and environmental risks to a low level.
With the proposed massive expansion of this new industry across the country, and the many known and accepted risks, including the landfill issues highlighted by Paul Mobbs, you would expect a responsible Government to increase Environment Agency staff accordingly. In one of the reports Matthew Hancock used in his defence, the Royal Academy stated that “regulatory capacity must be maintained”. But just two days after Zane’s sad death, news of 25% staff cuts hit the headlines.
Frontline services, according to Chris Smith, the then head of the EA, wouldn’t be affected by cuts, even while the agency was already struggling, calling nearly a fifth of frontline staff in from other teams in order to cope with the flooding.
The new head of the Agency is Sir Phillip Dilley, earning £100k for 3 days a week work. He used to head the engineering firm, Arup, and is still listed as a trustee. Arup was employed by the leading fracking company, Cuadrilla (whose chairman Lord Browne sat as an advisor in the Cabinet).
It’s also been recently revealed that the EA pension fund invests in the very fracking companies it is supposed to regulate.
The Environment Agency has just issued Cuadrilla with a brand new permit for drilling in Lancashire
Zane’s family don’t trust the Environment Agency. Do you?
You can find links to more info and help the family by signing their petition at: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/call-for-a-public-debate-into-the-death-of-7-year-old-zane