Hydrodynamic studies from NUI Galway show that the North Channel waters at Rathcoursey, where Dairygold wants to dump waste from its Mogeely plant, can take “in excess of 70 days” to “flush out”.
David Hugh-Jones from Atlantic Shellfish, who once ran a seafood business in this section of the harbour, sent the 2011 reports to Cork County Council as part of his objection to the planning permission application.
Like many residents in the area, he welcomes the new plant but has issues with where Dairygold wants to discharge 3m litres of waste.
It is understood that 2,806 litres of waste are to be pumped out of the pipe per minute, and potentially up to 3m litres per day.
“This is a virtually stagnant water body with negligible water exchange and a residence time of over 70 days,” said Mr Hugh-Jones. “This means that Rathcoursey is absolutely not the place to dispose of more waste.”
Dairygold Co-op is seeking to build a cheese processing plant in Mogeely, about 15km inland. Under the plans, waste from the Mogeely plant will be pumped into East Ferry channel waters, having travelled from Mogeely via a 14km pipe running through the townland of Rathcoursey. The outfall pipe where the waste will enter the water is 8km from open sea.
The waste will have undergone treatment at a new wastewater treatment plant at Mogeely and will contain fats, oil, and grease, known as ‘FOG’ in the industry.
The company’s environmental impact study says that the wastewater will be carried to sea safely on outgoing tides and all discharges will be in line with EPA standards.
A Dairygold spokesman said: “The Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] and Natura Impact Statement [NIS] consider the environmental impact of the proposed additional discharge at the existing licenced outfall at Rathcoursey.
“As outlined in the EIS, the prudent and conservative calculations used to assess the impact of the discharge on the receiving waters, and also considered as part of the NIS, did not take account of any beneficial effect of water exchange.
“Therefore the conclusion is that the Dairygold discharge will have negligible impact even before the benefit of water exchange is factored in, regardless of the rate of exchange.”
Irish Water said that the outfall pipe at Rathcoursey discharges water via a tidal holding tank that “is a combination of treated domestic, commercial, institutional and industrial wastewater, and stormwater from the Midleton agglomeration”.
East Ferry waters like a pond, claim local objectors
Residents opposed to Dairygold’s plan to pump waste into East Ferry waters have described this section of Cork harbour as being like a “pond” or “bowl” and not suitable for waste discharge.
Jason Colbert lives just half a kilometre from the Irish Water outfall pipe which already discharges treated waste from Midleton into the Cork harbour waters.
Dairygold want to add potentially up to 3m litres of extra “fat, oils, and grease” waste to this outfall pipe but the Colberts are firmly against it.
As it is, Jason and his wife won’t allow their two children to swim near their home because of the waste that they see in the water every day.
The father of two described the waters around Rathcoursey in East Cork as “like a pond”.
“It’s a non-flushing harbour, it doesn’t flush out twice a day like they’re saying,” he said. “The Dairygold waste won’t to go out to open sea. The cheese waste will only exacerbate a pollution problem that already exists.”
Most of the objectors around East Ferry aren’t opposed to the Dairygold expansion but say Rathcoursey “is the wrong site for an outfall pipe”, he said.
John Ahern comes from a long line of East Cork fishermen. His grandfathers, great grandfathers and two grand uncles fished those waters. John, who lives in Ballinacurra, near Midleton, kept a boat there until two years ago.
“The waste will not be carried out to open sea. That section of the harbour is like a bowl. There are two tides, each taking six hours to go in and six hours to go out but there only 3-4 hours of a good ebb or motion and then the water movement goes slow again.”
He also expressed concerns about the effects on the mammal and birdlife that live in the mudflats that run from Rathcoursey to Ballinacurra.