Locals fear contamination of drinking water

DRINKING water in a Co Cork community could have been contaminated by illegal waste lagoons, which the European Court ordered should be closed 14 months ago.

In a report issued yesterday, Cork County Council said it taken test samples from some of the lagoons at Ballard, Araglin. Officials said that pollutants of “varying concentrations” had been identified and in most, “but not all cases” they came within safe limits for drinking water.

Locals are concerned that some pollutants may have leaked into the water table and their fear has been heightened by the fact that a national school is only 500 yards from the site.

The local authority also confirmed yesterday that it is to force the owner of the site to completely drain one full lagoon and to fill in the others.

It is understood that the landowner has 21 days to comply with the council’s directives.

People living near the lagoons have fought a 16-year battle to get them closed, which culminated in them taking the case to the European Court.

The lagoons were created by a company, Greenfield Environmental Ltd, which has since ceased trading. When operational, the lagoons contained animal and dairy byproducts.

Bill Carey, chairman of the local residents’ association, said that while he was pleased that at last it seemed the lagoons were to be destroyed, people were nonetheless concerned about the possibility that their water could have been polluted.

“We will be seeking further information on what pollutants were found and what ones were not within acceptable levels. We will then be asking expert opinion from an independent hydrologist,” Mr Carey said.

He claimed that the county council had approached the whole issue of the illegal waste lagoons at “a snail’s pace”.

Senior Cork County Council officials are to meet with local community representatives in the next few days to discuss the latest situation. They have also told the landowner that he must dispose of the contents of one of the lagoons at an approved waste treatment facility, and submit proposals for the remediation of all lagoons to prevent the future accumulation of rainwater in them.

Local county councillor Liam O’Doherty said he was pleased that the county council appeared to be at last taking steps to have the lagoons destroyed, but added that it should have been done far sooner, especially in light of the European Court ruling of April 2005.

Cllr Aileen Pyne said she was very concerned about the “vague” reference to some pollutants found in samples as not being within limits for drinking water.

“I will be seeking more information on this as I’m sure will the local residents,” Ms Pyne added.

Meanwhile, residents are also fighting a proposal from Vaelco, a subsidiary of Greenstar, to build Ireland’s first anearobic waste digestor on the same site. Planning officials are expected to rule on the €75 million facility in the next few days.

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