HAVING just come through a 15-year landfill nightmare, a rural Limerick community says it will not survive an “environmental horror” plant which Limerick City and County Council now wants to foist on it.
Gortadroma landfill near the village of Shanagolden closed last year. Local people rejoiced at a return to life free from the foul spin-off from having 3,000 tonnes of municipal waste lorried into its midst every week since it opened in 1999.
The dust from the last rubbish lorry had hardly settled when residents got word that Limerick City and County Council had other big plans for the old landfill site.
Without any consultation with the residents, the six councillors on the Adare-Rathkeale Municiapal district gave approval for leasing the landfill site to a US corporation for the construction of massive gasification plant.
Cadence EniroPower (CEP) wants to build a €240m facility which will take in 7,000 tonnes of waste each week for incineration. It is also planned to burn thousands of tonnes of tyres each week.
The incineration will give off gas capable of generating 30 megawatts of electricity. The council say the rental of the site to CEP will yield €4m a year for 30 years and give employment to 150 people.
A full meeting of the 40-member Limerick City and County Council endorsed the decision of the Adare-Rathkeale district meeting with only one dissenting voice: That of Cllr Cian Prendiville of the AAA who called for a full presentation of the plans before any decision was taken.
Before the council took the leasing decision, a number of councillors, along with officials, travelled to France to visit a gasification plant there at a cost of €10,000.
It transpired, after their return with glowing reports, that the French plant was not even operating on the day of the visit.
Residents living near the Gortadroma site, say they are now preparing for a last stand battle as Cadence EniroPower get set to enter the planning process.
Their action group RAGE (Residents Against Gasification in our Environment), meets tomorrow night in Shanagolden.
Paul McClellan, 43, and his wife, moved from Leeds in the UK to what they thought was an idyllic rural setting by the banks of the Shannon.
They set about their own version of The Good Life with their children Joe and Eva, rearing chickens, geese, and pigs. They also have their own beehives.
But over the years life became intolerable due to emissions from the landfill. Paul said: “The smell over the years got worse and worse and it was so bad the EPA had to take court action. When it closed last year after years of hell we said to ourselves ‘brilliant that’s it, it’s gone’.
“Then we heard about this gasification plant. On looking into this type of gasification plant, we found out that they were refused permission to erect this kind of plant in Argentina, India, and the US.
“Then without any consultation, our local councillors backed this CEP plant. After having to put up with a landfill, this now is a double betrayal of this community.”
Mr McClellan said if the gasification plant goes ahead, up to 50 huge trucks a day would trundle along their narrow roads ferrying 1,000 tonnes of municipal waste and tyres.
He said: “The school bus pick-up point for children is near Gortadroma. Aside from the environmental destruction, children will be in great danger from the huge amount of lorry traffic. The council have been talking about all these jobs. But what about our families, our children, our well being? It will kill this community.”
Mary and Joe O’Connor run the family farm which has been in the O’Connor family for six generations.
Two of their three children suffer from major skin problems and the couple fear the proposed gasification plant will worsen their medical conditions.
Mary said the landfill had brought untold misery due to gas emissions.
“We were completely unprepared when our local councillors passed this leasing agreement and put commercial considerations before the interests of the people they are supposed to represent. There is still time for them to do the right thing and represent us fairly,” she said.
Mary said she and Joe have made a what she says is “an informed decision”.
“We do not want this gasification plant under any circumstances. If it goes ahead we will move out of here for good and we will also have to move Joe’s mother, who is 86, from the family farm.
“I have sent a registered letter to Mr Conn Murray [chief executive of] Limerick City and County Council telling him how this plan is going to destroy our family.”
Primary school teacher, Aileen McMahon and her husband Bill, also fear for the health of their children Darragh, 11; Conor, seven; and Aisling, five.
Aileen said: “Since the landfill closed, I have been able to go for a walk on fine evenings on the local roads and the kids can go out without fear of the big lorries. The closure of the landfill lulled us into a false sense of security as all of a sudden this new plan came at us from nowhere.
“The decision by local councillors to agree on a lease to CEP is very upsetting and we were never even consulted. They didn’t have the decency to tell us. What they now propose is an appalling prospect and it seems they want to ram it through.
“The frightening part of this kind gasification plans is the emissions. If we remain on here, maybe in 20 years’ time when people get cancers and respiratory problems, we would never forgive ourselves for staying on. This is my home and I don’t want to leave it.”
The community group now plan to take every opportunity to fight the development when Cadence EniroPower go for planning and EPA licences.