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Interested in maladministration. Estd. 2005
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Shell contaminate water in Mayo
Saturday February 18, 2006 20:07 by JM
Mayo County Council repeatedly fail to act
The ongoing situation at the proposed Bellanaboy gas refinery site has become an environmental concern. No work is progressing on construction as agreed by Shell and their partners, with local observers maintaining a day to day vigil.
However, on-site visitors have been witness to a criminal display of arrogance and neglect regarding the condition of the site at present, and the aluminium contaminated surface/ground water running directly into the drinking water supply for the whole region.
Shell continue to drag their heels operating a new treatment system, which was admitted by John Egan (a Mayo man!?) on MidWest radio last Thursday (16/02/06) as not operational yet, and with no date set for installation completion.
Aluminium content in Carrowmore Lake
At a Project Monitoring Committee meeting on January 11th this year, Gerry Costello of Shell informed Mayo County Council, the North Western Regional Fisheries Board, Bord na Mona, An Garda Siochana and all others in attendance that the now famous (locally at least) Axonics treatment units would be up and running continuously within two weeks. This was a repeat of the line spun out by them since last August.
Mark Carrigy, Mayo project Manager for Shell, told Shell To Sea that everyting was "working perfectly" on the 15th February. People from Shell are contradicting each other every time they open their mouths.
Because of this, and the fact that Mayo County Council are the statutory body responsible for monitoring events, a protest at the Coucil offices in Castlebar was staged in January, and again last Friday as part of the "Day of Action" organised by the Rossport Solidarity Camp.
What follows is a brief account of the meeting that took place between Shell To Sea members and Mayo County Council, as well as the text from the letter of protest presented to County Manager Des Mahon.
Mayo County Council (17/02/06)
A meeting between members of Shell To Sea and Mayo County Council took place at lunchtime today (at Aras an Contae, Castlebar) to discuss issues raised about the quality of water leaving the proposed Bellanaboy gas refinery site, and it’s subsequent impact on Carrowmore Lake.
Des Mahon (County Manager) and Peter Hynes (Director of Services) went immediately on the defensive, maintaining that all tests done by the Council on Carrowmore Lake and the drinking water leaving thereafter were within allowable limits for drinking water. The consistent line was that the existence of a testing regime was sufficient to fulfil their obligations on the matter.
When the screamingly obvious lack of urgency evident on the ground was pointed out to them, the much repeated stance was that Mayo County Council were, in fact, being “very hard” on Shell, who are operating the construction site with Roadbridge Ltd. This “hard” approach consisted of a letter from the Council to Shell last September … end of story!
The fact that surface water treatment was described as “urgent” last summer, and that Shell have failed to live up to the promised “two to three weeks” installation and operation period required, was completely ignored. A total of 115 days (and counting) of unhindered access for environmental works without any results is an utter disgrace, and something that really staggers belief. Four whole months of inaction… a third of a year!
A letter of protest, including a number of questions and photographic and statistical evidence of pollution, was presented to Des Mahon as a matter of form, as no REAL response from the Council can be expected. The visiting group, including Mayo Independent TD Dr. Jerry Cowley, were treated with disdain, arrogance and supreme contempt, and all arguments put forward were dismissed out of hand.
Meanwhile, a successful low-key protest by around fifty Erris residents (none of whom are actually serviced by Carrowmore water) took place outside the building, to coincide with an “International Day of Action” as part of the re-instatement of the Rossport Solidarity Camp for the upcoming construction season; people power ready to stand up for basic human rights.
Definitely an interesting and educational visit to the County Town, but the continued imperious attitude of those governing this County, and this State, must not and will not be tolerated by the multitude who have to live with decisions taken on their behalf.
Bellanaboy update (17/02/06)
Mayo County Council should by now be aware of the ongoing threat to the water quality of Carrowmore Lake (the main drinking water supply for Erris) from the operations at the proposed Corrib gas refinery at Bellanaboy. This has been the subject of media scrutiny and comment from a number of sources, including the Project Monitoring Committee and Mayo County Council itself.
Recent observations made by the local community on the Bellanaboy site have revealed that an alarming amount of aluminium-contaminated water has built up there, and that a substantial quantity of this has been allowed to flow freely into the Bellanaboy River and on to Carrowmore Lake. This situation was outlined to the Council on a number of occasions (specifically 27th October 2005, again on 2nd February this year and also yesterday 16th February).
A specialised “Axonics” treatment system to deal with aluminium has been delivered to the site, but has yet to be fully operational. Full access has been available to Shell, Roadbridge and security staff since December 5th 2005 (75 days) and for 40 days previous to that. Shell had informed the Council last year that 2-3 weeks were required for installation and commissioning of the equipment.
Test results available on the Council’s public file in Belmullet clearly show a sudden increase in the amounts of aluminium present in both the lake and the water leaving Bellanaboy. This fact raises a number of questions;
1 Does the Erris waterworks plant have the capacity to remove excess aluminium?
How many times can a recorded breach of “acceptable drinking water limits” be allowed before any action is taken?
3 Is Mayo County Council required to notify the public about sub-standard water quality?
Has the water treatment equipment been certified by Axonics?
Has Mayo County Council approved the discharge from Axonics to be released into public drains?
This is a most serious issue affecting the health and wellbeing of virtually all the inhabitants of Erris. In spite of the above circumstances, Mayo County Council saw fit to announce on MidWest Radio yesterday (16/02/06) that the quality of water in Carrowmore Lake is “fine”.
Is this situation a deliberate attempt by the Council to ignore any issues regarding the Corrib gas project, and is it just another example of dirty industry being thrust upon the inhabitants of the west at any cost?
Aluminium content leaving the vast Bellanaboy site
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Some pics showing the condition of the Bellanaboy site
A close-up of the aluminium-rich surface water
Treatment units in disrepair
Disconnected equipment being inspected by Shell To Sea
A partial view of the vast mess on site
Normal bogwater (from the peat) contrasted with the "contained" surface water
More pics showing the loss of control over surface and ground waters
A scrap of plywood supposedly saving Carrowmore Lake
The backed-up contaminated water finding it's own way downhill and into the drainage system
Contaminated water running through the drains towards the Bellanaboy River
Suspected post-treatment sludge running in drains outside the "containment" area
The amounts of Aluminium in the waters of Carrowmore Lake have repeatedly exceeded the limit set for drinking water (200 micrograms/litre)
17/09/05 - 285 micrograms/litre
28/10/05 - 303
02/11/05 - 250
07/12/05 - 397
13/01/06 - 215
23/01/06 - 260
Levels in the water leaving Bellanaboy have not been measured below the set limit since November 16th., cosistently registering at 2-3 times the limit, and on a couple of occasions exceeding 1000 micrograms/litre. Some of the on-site water has been measured at more than 34,000 micrograms/litre, and is not contained.
To highlight this problem, protestors of all ages converged on Mayo County Council!
Some of the protestors at Mayo County Council HQ in Castlebar yesterday (17/02/06)
More protestors getting in on the act
If ever pictures painted a 1000 words. Serves to highlight the criminal negligiance of Mayo Co. Co. particualry the county manager and his officials who obviously have complete contempt for local people's health and safety. This matter is now so serious that it should be raised in the Dail.
The letter of protest (that included five questions) was "answered" by the County Secretary on the 8th March last, and can be found on the County Council's website here
under "Erris Water quality 10/03/2006"
Below is the response to that reply.
John Condon (County Secretary)
Mayo County Council
Aras an Chontae
I refer to your well-publicised reply of 8th March 2006 to questions raised by myself and others regarding water quality in Carrowmore Lake, due to ongoing site works (or lack of) at the proposed Corrib gas refinery site at Bellanaboy, Erris, County Mayo.
Your relatively swift response is obviously a hasty attempt to divert attention from the facts, while maintaining the appearance of genuine concern for the affected public. I must draw your attention once again to the questions raised previously, and will fill in the blanks that are apparent in your lack of knowledge or understanding of the issues.
1. Does the Erris waterworks plant have the capacity to remove excess aluminium?
The question is misquoted by you. Your reply suggests “the excess aluminium” does not exist, when the actual question refers to a theoretical problem.
Also, your response goes on at great length to stress there is no evidence of excess aluminium in either Carrowmore Lake or the treated drinking water from Erris Water Works. You respond to questions not asked, but your answers are still false.
I suggest you inspect the public file on testing results in the Belmullet branch of Mayo County Council.
2. How many times can a recorded breach of “acceptable drinking water limits” be allowed before any action is taken?
Another theoretical question, but demanding a specific answer. The “acceptable drinking water limits” refers to those set by the Environmental Monitoring/Management Plan (EMP - Appendix 8) that apply to run-off from the site, with no specific reference at all to the “treated drinking water” in your reply.
You allude to “formal procedures” but give no specifics, and your reference to boil alerts addresses microbiological contamination, not metallic contamination.
According to the Council’s own figures, the limits for aluminium in site run-off are being continuously breached (see above).
3. Is Mayo County Council required to notify the public about sub-standard water quality?
This is a general question, but hints at drinking water quality. The reply is better than the previous two, referring to the HSE and notifying customers.
Will you inform the HSE and the public of the recorded breach of aluminium levels in the drinking water on 01/02/06?
4. Has the water treatment equipment been certified by Axonics?
You gave a very brief answer to this one, showing a reluctance to dwell on it’s importance.
The company involved advertises installation, commissioning and certification of it’s systems, yet Mayo County Council is unaware of certification in this case.
No-one appears to be accountable for the experiment being conducted on the Bellanaboy site, while Shell and Roadbridge play games with our drinking water.
Will the Council take responsibility when Carrowmore Lake is seriously polluted? The task of processing well over ten thousand cubic metres (10,900,000 litres) of polluted water through a ¾ inch pipe is a sick joke, even without any more rain falling on Bellanaboy!
5. Has Mayo County Council approved the discharge from Axonics to be released into public drains?
Despite the lack of guarantees regarding the treatment system, you gave “approval to the developer to discharge from the Axonics plant subject to a number of conditions” at the end of January.
The conditions laid out in the EMP require containment, treatment, storage, testing and finally discharge from the site.
Only limited treatment is being conducted at present (it would take five months to clear the site of current water levels at the current treatment rate), the testing of stored water prior to discharge is completely ignored, and the continuous overspill of contaminated water remains unchecked since last October.
This remains a most serious issue affecting the health and wellbeing of virtually all the inhabitants of Erris. It is to Mayo County Council’s eternal shame that the speed applied to PR attempts is not applied to preventing the destruction of our environment.