A public meeting about the second of two High Court challenges to the expansion of the Aughinish Alumina in Limerick is to be held in Limerick tonight.
The 1,485-acre plant wants to expand its red mud bauxite residue disposal area, which is currently so big the so-called ‘red lakes’ can be seen from space.
Futureproof Clare (FPC), who are organising the meeting, is one of a number of organisations objecting to plans to, among other things, raise the lakes by 12 metres. FPC, who describe themselves as grassroots environmental justice campaigners, is hoping to create more awareness about what they claim are the environmental and social impacts of the plant.
FPC spokesperson Sinéad Sheehan said: "We are organising a public meeting to bring together people who would like to learn more about why Futureproof Clare want to stop the waste disposal area at Aughinish from being expanded. We have organised for legal and environmental experts to speak at the meeting."
The group cite safety concerns about the proposed expansion to the alumina refinery, including concerns for habitat and wildlife.
FPC also claims the cumulative effect of the facility over the 40 years it has been operating is not being properly assessed in the company’s application to expand until 2039.
Points raised by objectors to the plans include concerns about the impact of the plant on bottlenose dolphins.
Dublin’s Harcourt Street-based planners Tom Phillips & Associates, who act on behalf of Aughinis
h Alumina Ltd, “strongly dispute” those and other environmental impact claims.
They said: "It is also noted that commentary in relation to dolphin health do not directly relate to operations at Aughinish Alumina but rather to the general operation of industry in general.
They also point out, in response to other environmental claims, that “there is no evidence that heavy metals concentrations are elevated” in the area around the plant.
The planners also insist “there is no evidence of toxic impacts” on dolphins or birds in and around the area from the plant on Aughinish Island, Askeaton.
Aughinish Alumina also disputes a claim repeated by FPC — in its submissions
to the planning application — that “all you need is a combination of high tides in the estuary and an hour of prolonged rainfall and you have a potential disaster”.
The planning consultants point out that “no assessment or calculations were provided” to back up that claim.
They also point out that “in accordance with the EU regulations, no threshold is exceeded for any of the hazard properties” and the bauxite residue “is non hazardous” and “does not present a radiation hazard” to the surrounding environment.
The public meeting will take place 6pm in the Schumann Building, University of Limerick this evening.
The event will also be live streamed via the Futureproof Clare facebook account.