Erris residents take action over water issue
Thursday March 22, 2007 22:23 by Bob & Eve - Rossport Solidarity Camp
Shell to Sea enter Ballinaboy site
The full story of today's mass tresspass by Shell to Sea.
Todays' decision to enter the Ballinaboy site was a result of the extermely frustrating position the Erris residents are in, where no-one from the County council, the "Project Monitoring Commitee" or Shell will explain the contamination of the water supply (proven by the councils' own tests as well as testing done by Shell to Sea supporters) or explain what is being done to remedy the situation.
Contamination of the local drinking water source, Carrowmore lake, has been a serious concern for residents since Shell began to excavate peat from their proposed refinery site at Bellanaboy in April 2005. In the course of the peat excavation, of which they completed approximatly one quater, a layer of aluminium rich subsoil known as doube was disturbed. The aluminium from the doube succeded in contaminating the surface water lying on the site which was allowed to run off site untreated despite Shell's pledges to the contrary. In the almost two years since the peat was removed Shell and Roadbridge have failed miserably to adequately manage the water on site or to resolve the problem of aluminium contaminated water leeching into local watercourses and ultimatly the drinking water supply.
Early this morning a local woman noticed an unusually large discharge of discoloured water leaving the site via a drain running under the road near gate three. On closer inspection it became clear that the discharge was untreated water from the site running from a partially conclealed drain running under the site perimeter hedge. From the roadside it appeared that water was being pumped into the concealed drain from further up on the site. The woman and other protesters who had been at the morning picket became concerned and soon a dozen or so protesters gathered at the spot.
The protesters called the county council and the fisheries board to express their concern and to demand answers. A test was done by a Shell to Sea person showing an alarmingly high level of aluminium in the water leaving the site. A council representative agreed to meet members of Shell to sea at the proposed terminal site at around 12 o clock this morning although failed to turn up. Attempts were made throughout the day to contact members of the project monitoring commitee, as well as Paddy Mahon at Mayo County Council who apparently bears ultimate responsibility for the council's monitoring of Shell. None of these individuals were contactable.
When the council representative had not shown up by 3 30, the decision was taken to enter the site . A crowd of about 60 Shell to Sea campaigners opened the gate and walked in on the site. The security guards did not attempt to impede them. The crowd inspected the settlement ponds intended to seperate peat from the water and the drain taking water off the site. The water was seen to be of a dirty colour with a metallic sheen on the surface. After inspecting the water, about 20 of the older Shell to Sea people left the site again, as the muddy ground was proving a little treacherous to walk on. The remaining people decided to continue on up the site and try to find a site engineer to answer some questions.
After about twenty minutes, the police showed up with 2 paddywagons and 2 squad cars. One of the cars came up behind a Shell to Sea campaigner and quite intentionally bumped into him. When another individual banged on the bumper of the car to stop them driving over the man, several police jumped out of the car and started pulling and pushing the pair, one of whom had his finger sprained by the enthusiastic cops. 2 more paddywagons arrived shortly, bringing police numbers to about 30. Interestingly, one of the officers present, Sergeant Gill, is a member of the Project Monitoring commitee. He refused to take a page of test results from one of the Shell to Sea campaigners showing dangerous levels of aluminium in the water.
An inspector who identified himself as Adrien Foley (but refused to show ID) told the crowd to leave the site as they were trespassing. He was informed that unless the Guards had the express permission of the owners of the site to be there, then they were also trespassing and had no authority to arrest any of the crowd while on the site. The police then decided to back off and form a line, preventing any further movement into the site. When no-one had come to deal with the protesters' complaints and concerns by five o clock, they took the decision to leave the site. The police followed them out to the road, where they were greeted by a jubilant crowd of about 50 local residents. Once back on more comfortable terrain, the Guards resumed their usual antagonistic behaviour, forming a line and pushing the assembled Shell to Sea protesters not just off the road but crushing some people against the cars which were parked at the roadside. Luckily, no injuries were reported due to this sadly common thuggish behaviour by Gardai.
The action taken today was entirely the initiative of residents of the Erris area who were tired of getting the run-around from officials and being either ignored or beaten for trying to highlight the dangers that Shell pose to their area. There were no "outside elements" for the mainstream media to demonise today. Erris residents will continue to take whatever action necessary to protect themselves and their environment; they have little choice.