The world-famous hot springs of the city of Bath may be threatened by fracking, the controversial technique for exploiting underground supplies of shale gas, the Government was told yesterday.
Bath and North East Somerset Council sounded the alarm to ministers about licences to use the technique, which involves fracturing rock formations by pumping in liquids at high pressure, that have been granted to two companies prospecting for gas in the Mendip Hills to the south of the city.
The licences have been granted by the Department for Environment to both Eden Energy and UK Methane, and they are now in the process of applying to Mendip District Council for planning permission to begin test drilling.
"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.
"The 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. 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."
The hot springs of Bath were known before Roman times and the Romans used them to establish a spa with the Latin name Aquae Sulis, or the waters of Sulis, a local deity. In recent years they have been restored and are a major attraction of the city.