Limerick family fears canal chemicals are poisoning their land

Discoloured water discharged into the Loughmore canal.

WHEN Sarah Mulcahy’s family agreed to a canal being constructed on their land, they were assured that the storm water flowing through it would be so clean they could drink it.

“There’s no way I would attempt to drink what’s flowing in Loughmore Canal today,” Sarah told the Limerick Post, pointing to the grey, slimy liquid that is present in the canal most days.

The canal was originally constructed on Loughmore Common to deal with storm water from Raheen Industrial Estate.

“Originally, it was fine but since the 1970s there have been a lot of new industries set up on the estate,” said Sarah.

“Whenever there’s a weather warning, we know we will be flooded, but we are really worried about what is in that water. There’s oil and God knows what kind of chemicals. We can’t use 20 acres of grazing for our animals because we’re afraid of what might have gotten out and into the soil.”

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Generations of the family have been farming the land since the 1800s, and they are now deeply worried about how the unidentified materials in the water could be affecting that land, and the knock-on effects for their health and livelihood.

“We’ve been complaining about it to the council since before the county and the city merged and we’ve objected to every planning permission for a new industry coming on to the estate but nothing has been done,” said Sarah.

When an inspector from the council’s Environment Department came out last year, the family hoped some action would be taken, but so far, none has.

“We don’t even know what’s in that water. I’ve contacted several local water testing companies but they tell me they don’t want to get involved. They have their own contracts with the council.”

After several meetings between the family, the council and the IDA, the IDA undertook to produce their own report, trying to pinpoint which area of the estate the material is coming from, but the Mulcahys have been told that report, which is now overdue, has not been produced yet.

“This is absolutely disgraceful, to be allowed to carry on. The lack of interest in resolving these pollution issues is very worrying,” said Sarah.

The issue of an audit of the canal was raised at this week’s meeting of the Municipal District of Limerick City and County Council by Sinn Féin councillor Sharon Benson.

In reply to her question seeking an update on the situation, Director of Service, Nuala Gallagher, said that RPS consultants are carrying out a survey as part of the development of a flood relief scheme and they will provide a recommendation as to whether the Loughmore Canal should be included.

Meanwhile, JBA Consultants are developing a stormwater Management Plan which will include an analysis of the canal. Work on both plans are on-going, Ms Gallagher said.