Taskforce formed to avert slurry disaster

A taskforce of government departments, farmers, and other agencies has been set up to avert an environmental pig slurry disaster in the Midlands.

More than 4m gallons of slurry are on the verge of leaking into waterways, including an angling lake, from a largely unauthorised piggery in Longford.

The disused farm has been described as “a toxic site” by a judge at the district court.

Pig farmer Donal Connaughton, aged 56, has admitted three charges of causing or permitting deleterious matter (slurry) to fall into the water courses, just 1km from his property at Elfleet, Newtowncashel, in March of last year.

Longford District Court was told there are up to 25 massive slurry tanks — covering 8,000m sq — both above and below ground.

Mr Connaughton had made the situation worse by removing the roofs of slatted structures in order to comply with a demolition order sought by Longford County Council, the court heard.

Yesterday, the council’s senior engineer for water services, Tom Murphy, told Judge Seamus Hughes that the Departments of Environment and Agriculture, Inland Fisheries Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency, IFA, and the county council had met last week to discuss the problem.

He said all the bodies were committed to provide assistance to avert the threat to the lakes but needed Mr Connaughton’s co-operation in their efforts. A further meeting is planned for Friday.

Judge Hughes wondered why a cheque was not simply being handed to Mr Connaughton to do the work for a third of the cost. He had previously succeeded in emptying his tanks without a problem while in production at the pig farm.

Having confirmed Mr Connaughton was, in effect, bankrupt, Judge Hughes queried how the matter could be dealt with by next spring.

Mr Murphy said the Department of the Environment had agreed to make a small amount of money available to fund the work.

“Are we going to simply throw money at it every year — an Irish solution to an Irish problem?” Judge Hughes wondered.

Senior fisheries environmental officer Michael Fitzsimons confirmed there was still a persistent discharge from the farm into Lough Slawn and, if it continued, there was a good chance it would wipe out the fish life by next spring.

Judge Hughes adjourned the case to January to keep pressure on all stakeholders.


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