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Dublin Opinion >>
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