Fears over mussel threat to County Development Plan in Cork

More than 12 months after a tiny creature caused mayhem for builders along the Blackwater Valley in Co Cork there is still no solution to marry the needs of protecting it with future development.

Shockwaves reverberated through County Hall in 2014 when councillors were told that parts of the County Development Plan would have to be put on hold in north Cork in particular, because of the presence of the freshwater pearl mussel.

EU directives state that rivers have to be cleaned up to protect the mussel. The purity of water is defined by the tiny, endangered creature. If rivers are contaminated by sewerage its breeding is affected.

In the case of the River Blackwater — where there is a significant freshwater pearl mussel population — this is being put down to the lack of or inefficiency of sewerage treatment plants allied to the uncontrolled run-off of slurry into the river, which runs through a significant area of farming production.

Members of the County Council’s northern division said they were shocked that a resolution still had not been found, despite promises from council officials that it was a top priority issue.

Councillor Kevin O’Keeffe (FF) said he was extremely concerned that officials still had not come up with some kind of plan to address the very serious issue.

Assistant county manager, James Fogarty, maintained council officials were doing everything possible to find a solution and were involved in discussions with relevant government departments and with the EU.

He said he simply couldn’t wave a magic wand and get it sorted out because of the complexity of the issue and the EU stance.

“There’s no easy solution to this. We hope to get some sort of answer.”

He said senior council planners were in direct discussions with EU officials and have provided the government with a document which it has also presented to Brussels.

Councillor Frank O’Flynn (FF) also expressed concern about the delay in the promised report from council officials.

“When is that coming? This [lack of a solution] is holding up development along the river and especially around Fermoy. Anyway as a result of the recent flooding they [freshwater pearl mussels] are probably all washed away,” said Mr O’Flynn, making no secret he was not overly worried about their existence.

Mr O’Keeffe reiterated that he was still very concerned about the situation. He maintained that even those who wanted to build individual houses were facing extra expense on sewerage projects/treatment tanks as a result of the issue.

He asked Mr Fogarty if he realised how serious the situation was. The senior council official said he was well versed with the reality and while there were some planning constraints, permission had since been given to some projects, including small schools, and unfortunately there was “no quick fix” of the problem.


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