‘Reckless’: Local farmers’ group criticise decision to give Limerick’s Aughinish Alumina go-ahead for rock blasting
AN Bord Pleanala has given the go-ahead to Aughinish Alumina to begin blasting and extracting rock close to the mud ponds at the Askeaton plant.
The decision has been described as “reckless” by veteran campaigner, Pat Geoghegan of the Cappagh Farmers Support Group who lodged an appeal, with An Bord Pleanála after Limerick City and County Council gave permission for the proposal to the company earlier this year.
“What this means is that the company can set explosives just meters from the existing mud ponds that store 50 million plus tonnes of toxic waste,” Mr Geoghegan said this Wednesday.
He also claimed that blasting will take place close to the gas line connecting Aughinish to the national grid.
“If the explosives breach any part of the embankment or the base of the mud ponds,” he warned, “ you are looking at the destruction of the Shannon Estuary for decades to come, with the red toxic waste flowing straight from the ponds into the Shannon.”
Moreover, he added: This planning decision has taken no account of such an environmental disaster should it happen.”
And he pointed out that no separate financial bond or insurance bond had been demanded or put in place to cover such an eventuality.
“This could potentially expose the tax payer to millions of euro in damages and clean-up if an accident were to occur,” he declared.
He also claimed that permission to blast and extract rock would have a negative impact on those living close to the mud ponds and would further devalue their property.
And he questioned what would happen when the rock had been extracted, to a maximum of 8.5 metres or over 26 feet.. “The rock will then be used to heighten the embankments. Will this lead to the storing of even more toxic waste?” he asked. “And will the craters then be used for a third mud pond?”
He reiterated his concern that the red mud, when dried out, could blow on to farms and the wider community.
Earlier this year, An Bord Pleanála refused to hold an oral hearing on the Aughinish proposal, which was requested by the Cappagh Farmers Support Group and supported by 1000 signatures and by Limerick Against Pollution.
On November 13, the board granted permission for a borrow pit to be developed over 4.5 hectares of a seven hectare site for the blasting and extraction of 374 cubic metres of rock over ten years. But the permission comes with certain conditions including that blasting takes place between April and September and an undisclosed sum be paid in development levies to Limerick City and County Council before work can begin.
In making its decision, the board said it had carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment and considered emissions to air, including dust, noise and vibration, setting out particular steps to mitigate these. If these are adhered to, the board stated, the effects on the environment “would be acceptable”.
The company, An Bord Pleanala also stipulated, is required to seek a review of its Industrial Emissions Licence, which specifies limits and the EPA will carry out monitoring of this.
A request for clarification and comment from Aughinish Alumina remained unanswered.