The European Commission could scupper Irish Water’s plan to build a controversial €13 million sewage plant next to Nobel laureate John Hume’s Donegal home
Hume’s wife Pat told this newspaper that the house at beautiful Glenburnie Beach in Carnagarve had been “a lifesaver” for her husband during dark times and the threat of the sewage plant had been “devastating”.
But a European Commission official investigating the matter has raised concerns about the way Irish authorities approved the project, according to correspondence seen by this newspaper. It is another potential complication in Irish Water’s task to end serious raw sewage problems afflicting 44 Irish urban areas.
The embattled state water company has planning permission from An Bord Pleanála for a sewage plant at the site on Lough Foyle to cater for a population of 8,800 in nearby Moville and Greencastle. But locals have fought for a decade to have the plant moved out of Lough Foyle to a site on the nearby Atlantic coastline.
“There is a horrendous problem with raw sewage going straight into the rivers,” said Enda Craig, who has led the fight. “People in Moville and Greencastle have to live with the smell and the rats so it is understandable some want it put anywhere at this stage. But Carnagarve Beach is beautiful and the wrong place for this.”
John Hume’s wife Pat agreed, describing Irish Water’s proposed solution as “shortsighted”.
“John and I are both getting well on in years but we think of our children and grandchildren,” she said, explaining they bought the house “after a very bad period” in 1987 when their house in Derry and two cars were firebombed.
“Very few people went to this part of Inishowen because you had to come through British army checkpoints so properties were very reasonable. It’s the best thing we ever did. It has really been a lifesaver. ”
“This is one of the most beautiful coastal pathways in Ireland,” she said. “To jeopardise it in any way is wrong and shortsighted. This magnificent shore walk is one of the big things it has to offer and it would be a terrible shame if it was jeopardised when other alternatives exist.”
Following the loss of a judicial review in 2013, local objectors took their case to Europe. They claimed a failure by the Irish government to transpose the EU’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) directive into law had allowed the Donegal sewage plant to be granted planning permission ahead of the granting of an EPA discharge licence and proper assessment of the impact of a 300 metre long sewage outfall into Lough Foyle.
Irish Water said it is advancing the project to comply with wastewater regulations and a EPA discharge licence. It expects to tender the project in the next 12-18 months.
A Department of the Environment planning official dismissed the concerns in an email to Craig saying that “the Department understands that the EC [European Commission] is satisfied that the EIA Directive has been transposed satisfactorily in this regard.”
But a senior Commission official tasked with monitoring Ireland’s compliance with EU environmental law wrote last week in an email seen by this newspaper that “we are of the view that the EIA Directive applies in a case such as Moville in that an EIA screening process was required. We will be discussing this issue with the Irish authorities over the coming weeks.”
The email is just the latest twist in a saga that has run since plans were first put in place to build the plant in 1989. Following local consultation, a site outside the Foyle Estuary was eventually chosen in 2003.
But this was suddenly dropped two years later in favour of Carnagrave Beach, a site subsequently rejected three times by an An Bord Pleanála planning inspector. It is believed locally that the British crown still lays claim to the seabed right across the lough from Derry to the Co Donegal shoreline, which, objectors predict, could cause issues if construction proceeds.
In 2006 the Port and Harbour Authority in the area objected to the plant’s proposed 650-metre effluent outfall pipe running beneath the nearby busy navigation channel. But instead of abandoning the proposed site, the county council cut the outfall length to 300 metres. Objectors claim this greatly increases the risk of effluent being washed back onto the shore.
A hydrographic report prepared for Donegal County Council attempted to dispel this fear saying treated sewage would be pushed out of the mouth of the estuary by strong currents. But a senior oceanographer engaged by locals produced a report to say that the sewage, including raw sewage at certain times, would indeed be pushed onto the shoreline twice a day by the tide.
Meanwhile, locals applied to Donegal County Council to have Carnagrave Beach officially designated as a bathing location under EPA rules, possibly forcing the relocation of the plant.
But the local authority, which directed all queries from this newspaper on the project to Irish Water, refused to grant the bathing designation saying it preferred to allocate scarce resources to existing Blue Flag beaches in the county.
Highland Radio, Aug 10, 2015
The Campaign for a Clean Estuary in Inishowen says indications coming from Europe are that their challenge against a Sewage Treatment Plant at Carnagarve near Moville will be adjudicated on later this year.
It follows a Sunday Business Post report that EU officials have expressed concern at elements of the plan, and the way the location was determined.
Campaign spokesperson Enda Craig says this is potentially very significant………
Save the Foyle THE SOLUTION
The sewage plant and pipe should go north of Greencastle (as was decided by council motion of 1990) where the effluent can be treated and discharged into the open sea. THE RIGHT PLANT IN THE RIGHT PLACE