Wednesday 25 May 2022

Water companies warn geothermal drilling may pollute drinking water

Drinking water companies are calling on the government to stop issuing licences for  test geothermal drilling in the dunes, saying the extraction of geothermal heat could impact on the quality of tap water.

The government has been granting licences to explore the possibilities of extracting heat at depth as part of their alternative energy strategy. However, the companies claim the licences include dune areas which are an important source of drinking water.

‘If drilling really happens, chemicals can leak into the drinking water supply,’ Jelle Hannema, director of water company Vitens told the AD. Hannema heads a group of 10 water companies who will address MPs on Thursday to express their concerns.

It is not the first time the companies raise the alarm, but, Hannema said, licences to look for suitable locations for geothermal drilling continue to be issued.

‘Drinking water supplies are not as deep as the heat that is being pumped up. Natural chemicals are released and rise up during the process. Chemicals are also used to combat corrosion and during drilling. We see a great danger that these will leaking into the water which will then be no longer fit for use,’ Hannema said.

An economic affairs ministry spokesman told the paper the licences are exploratory only and therefore ‘no cause for concern’.

Currently exploratory licences include some 20 Vitens water supply locations in Utrecht and Gelderland alone. Shell and four other companies are also searching for suitable drilling locations in the dune area near Noordwijk, despite a formal protest from the Zuid Holland provincial authorities and water company Dunea.

False expectations

Zuid Holland provincial deputy Jeanette Baljeu said the province would never allow deep drilling in drinking water areas and said the licences ‘raise false expectations’.

Baljeu said she expects the provincial authorities will meet with economic affairs minister Stef Blok before the end of the year to talk about the subject.

The water companies are calling for a ‘national water accord’ outlining measures to safeguard the future supply of drinking water. ‘Water is getting to be a scarcer good in the dunes already and soil pollution is affecting quality. We really don’t need these licences,’ Hannema said.

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