Approval for Aughinish rock blasting described as ‘reckless’

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A DECISION by An Bord Pleanála to allow Aughinish Alumina rock blast a borrow pit at their plant in West Limerick for ten years has been described as reckless by a local environmental group.

The Cappagh Farmers Support Group believes the borrow pit proposal will have a life-long detrimental impact on fauna, wildlife, marine life, birds, and the natural environment.

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Chairman Pat Geoghegan told the Limerick Post that he is also concerned that the decision will have a negative impact on those living close to these ponds at Aughinish Island in Askeaton and Foynes.

“Our objection clearly outlines the dangers of blasting rock to a depth of 8 metres and 4.5 hectare in size next to red mud ponds, storing approximately 40 million tonnes of toxic waste. We would like to brief councillors and the Mayor himself of the dangers to this proposal,” he explained.

An Bord Pleanála informed Cappagh Farmers Support Group this week that they have granted a ten-year permission for the borrow pit with an extraction area of 4.5 hectares to extract around 374 cubic metres of rock over a ten-year period. Extraction will take place between April and September each year.

“Such a decision by An Bord Pleanála is nothing more than reckless – to allow explosives to be set off just meters from the existing mud ponds that store 50 million tonnes of toxic waste in order to secure rock that will be used to heighten the embankments further to store more toxic waste.

“When it dries out, it will blow on to farms and the wider community,” he claimed.

Cappagh Farmers Support Group also maintain that by accumulating rock for the embankments, Aughinish are also creating a 8.5 meter crater that could form the next stage of a third mud pond to store more toxic waste.

“We are heading for one of the biggest toxic waste facilities in Europe right next to Foynes. If the explosives breach any part of the embankment or the base of the mud ponds, we could be looking at the destruction of the Shannon Estuary for decades to come, with the red toxic waste flowing straight from the ponds into the Shannon.

“This planning has not taken into account for such an environmental disaster should it happen. We could live to regret this decision because Limerick City and County Council will facilitate Aughinish like they have for decades in relation to bad planning that has destroyed our environment and put human health at risk.

“Shame on our councillors who stayed silent on this reckless application,” Mr Geoghegan concluded.

In granting planning permission, An Bord Pleanála said it considered that the development would not seriously injure the amenities of the area or of the property in the vicinity, would comply with the provisions of the Development Plan and would not be prejudicial to public health.

“The proposed development would therefore be in accordance with the proper planning permission and sustainable development of the area,” the approval notice declared.