€75m sludge plan for waste lagoon site

FOR 15 years residents living in an isolated part of North Cork battled to have an illegal waste site closed down.

In April last year, Ireland was cited in the European Court for allowing the operation to continue. The authorities were told to clean it up and claim to have done so.

However, locals believe there is still an amount of residue left in the large lagoons, which held a cocktail of dairy waste and chemicals.

Just as residents thought they were about to see light at the end of the tunnel, a major company has announced plans for a €75 million anaerobic sludge digester at the same site at Ballard, Araglin.

Valeco, a subsidiary of Greenstar, says it understands residents concerns about the lagoons and has offered to investigate their claims.

If granted planning permission for their anaerobic digester — which will be the first in the country — the company says it will clean up the site and level the lagoons.

The Department of the Environment said that last October it issued a formal response to the European Court in relation to the illegal lagoon operation, which was carried out by another company called Greenfield Environmental Ltd.

“The current position is that unauthorised activity has ceased. Both Cork County Council and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) conducted a site visit to the Ballard facility in August 2005. This visit found that all the organic waste, approx 38,000 tonnes of solid material, had been removed from the site to authorised facilities.

“Leachate had also been removed from the lagoons and properly disposed of. The EPA took water samples from three locations on site, which show no evidence of contamination,” the spokesman added.

Aerial pictures taken by the Irish Examiner, however, show the lagoons are still full.

But it’s what’s in them that concerns locals. They realise that much of their surfaces are covered with water, but still harbour fears that dangerous residues are left at the bottom.

They simply don’t trust the authorities any more and want an independent assessment carried out.

Bill Carey, spokesman for the local Valley Residents’ Association, said his organisation has consistently opposed the unauthorised developments and storage of sludges and waste at this site over the last 16 years.

“We are now one year on from the judgment of the ... European Court finding that Ireland had failed to implement the Waste Directive on a number of counts, in relation to this site.

“Trucks still enter and leave the site on a daily basis, and we believe that waste is still stored at the site,” Mr Carey claimed.

He added that he wasn’t aware of any cleanup of the site being carried out since the judgment.

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