With previous press restrictions lifted today, some of the details have emerged about massive toxic contamination around the controversial IGas exploratory drilling site, the scene of huge anti-fracking protests at Barton Moss last year.
At Manchester Magistrates Court, District Judge Prowse acknowledged the "enormous public interest" in the case and the "dangerously high concentrations" of PAHs (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) found from samples taken near the IGas site.
PAHs include acenaphthylene, anthracene, benz[a]anthracene and chrysene - toxic carcinogenic substances which have major affects on human health, as well as on livestock and crops.
Expert witness for the defence, Dr Aidan Foley, told the court he had tested for 16 compounds but needed to go back to the site to get more samples so that he could fingerprint the actual source of the contamination. Both Peel Holdings, the owners of the land, and IGas, which rented its site from Peel, had refused access.
Dr Foley named a number of sources from where the contamination could have come from, including the M62 which goes past the site, historical dumping, Barton Aerodrome or from plant and machinery used at the IGas drilling site... "Would the logical conclusion be that it must have come off the site?" asked the Judge... "Yes" replied Dr Foley.
The expert witness for the Crown Prosecution Service wasn't called to give evidence as the hearing centred on access to the site and the need by the defence to obtain further samples, before any judgement could be made on whether IGas was guilty of criminal damage and breaches of environmental law. The result of that judgement will affect the cases of virtually all the Barton Moss protectors who were charged by Greater Manchester Police during the protests at the Salford site last year.
Judge Prowse adjourned the case while access to the Peel Holdings site is attempted again and subsequent samples analysed. The case is expected to come back to the Magistrates Court in June.
Speaking after the hearing, Simon Pook of Robert Lizar Solicitors told the Salford Star "We will continue to defend the lawful right of peaceful protest, as enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights, as the people at Barton Moss appeared to be doing at the time."
Present in court, taking notes, were members of Greater Manchester Police `domestic extremist' team.
Main photo by Steven Speed