Fears grow over plan to discharge waste from cheese factory

Residents and environmentalists are raising concerns over plans for treated waste from a cheese factory being discharged into an area of Cork harbour.

A dairy co-op plans to construct a 14km pipe to carry an estimated 290m gallons of industrial effluent through a river in east Cork as part of a production expansion project.The planning application by Dairygold Co-op refers to treated fat oil grease (fog) being deposited into East Ferry’s inner harbour at Rathcoursey through connection with an outfall pipe.

Fears were raised following the company seeking planning permission for a 10,000-tonnes capacity cheese-making factory at Mogeely near Castlemartyr. The expansion marks a major investment by Norway’s largest farmer-owned dairy co-op, TINE, to upscale its production of Jarlesberg cheese in partnership with Dairygold, who have been manufacturing the cheese for TINE since 2013.

However, the outfall pipe rests between two protected sites for migratory birds at Great Island to the north and Saleen Creek. The area is also a foraging location for sea bass, now a protected species, as well as being a popular sailing location.

Dairygold’s Environmental Impact Study says “no information is available on the ph or the fog characteristic of the waste water” but believes a newly planned waste water treatment plant will reduce its status to ‘grey water’ that will be safely carried from the harbour on outgoing tides. The company asserted all discharges would be in line with EPA standards.

However, Sail Cork proprietor and Cobh Sailing Club member Eddie English is concerned “southerly gales, which can last for days, could lead to residue oils and grease congealing in the harbour or being blown back into it”.

He was critical of the fact there was no public meeting held in the East Ferry region. He also has reservations as to why the company had chosen Rathcoursey which was “a mile from the outer harbour and five miles from the open sea” when there are closer points of discharge available. “This is a particularly beautiful area”, he says “and it is a very sad development.”

Marine expert Tom Doyle of Galway NUI, a native of east Cork, also expressed concern that “any effluent with organic matter” could threaten sea bass areas given that East Ferry “ has some of the highest residence times in Cork harbour” for effluent.

Cork County Council’s planning department said submissions and observations on the expansion project will be accepted until January 20.


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