Funding expected to tackle sea lettuce blight

MINISTER for the Environment John Gormley is expected to shortly release funds for the removal of up to 3,000 tonnes of sea lettuce, which has blighted parts of the west Cork coast.

Deputy Christy O’Sullivan (FF) said he had been informed by the minister his department would be making money available for the clean-up.

A taskforce set up by Cork County Council last October recently estimated it would cost around €1.5 million to carry out the work.

The areas affected include the Argideen estuary between Timoleague and Courtmacsherry; Clonakilty Bay and Inchydoney.

The taskforce included representatives from the Marine Institute, Cork County Council, Department of Agriculture, &the EPA, HSE, National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Environment.

The sea lettuce is an algae first spotted in the region in the 1990s.

However, its growth escalated in recent years, particularly through the reported overuse by farmers of nitrate fertilisers running off the land into the sea.

The problems are further compounded by the fact that many of the estuaries in the west Cork coast are sheltered and the flushing of waste water is restricted.

“The taskforce report also identified the need for new waste water treatment plants in Clonakilty and Courtmacsherry to remove nitrates from the water going into the sea. I have asked the minister to make the building of these treatment plants a priority and his department and the council are currently in talks about how these projects will be funded,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

His son, Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan, said the sea algae would be removed from the estuaries and spread on farm land as a fertiliser.

“The council has already started taking expressions of interest on this. Failure to address the situation could result in public health problems and the possible closure of some of the beaches, which would be disastrous for the tourist industry,” Cllr O’Sullivan said.

He believed up to 15 farms would use the sea lettuce as fertiliser. “It will be a short-term solution to spread the sea lettuce on land. Anything between 1,500 and 3,000 tonnes will need to be removed and I’m hoping this work will be carried out as soon as possible,” he said.


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