"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
Environmental and Pollution Issues
- Carrowmore Lake:
“If you site a petrochemical industry in the catchment area of a community drinking water [source] you are asking for trouble and it’s only a matter of time before damage is done".
Construction of the gas refinery has necessitated the excavation of over half a million tons of peat, which were transported and dumped several km away at Srahmore peat facility. The disturbance of aluminium rich deposits under the bog during excavation combined with inadequate water management at the site has resulted in the pollution of the local drinking water source, Special Area of Conservation and Special Protected Area of Carrowmore Lake. Aluminium contaminated water was allowed to run off the site draining into the lake. Mayo County Council’s figures show that aluminium levels in the drinking water coming from the lake contain levels of aluminium exceeding the World Health Organisation's accepted safety levels. Further and more serious contamination of Carrowmore Lake is feared if the refinery is built and operational.
During the 2007 oral hearing for the granting of an IPPC (integrated pollution prevention and control) licence Leo Corcoran of An Taisce lodged an objection to the granting of the licence on behalf the basis that “the Bellanaboy site does not comply with international codes of practice for siting gas processing terminals because it is located within the catchment of a major water supplier.” As well as the lake’s primary importance as the source of drinking water for almost 10,000 people, it is also of considerable ecological value, primarily for the extensive intact blanket bog surrounding the lake, which provides a range of good quality habitats for both plants and animals. The north-western part of the site supports a number of Greenland White-fronted Geese, while other important bird species which occur are Golden Plover, Merlin, Sandwich Tern and Arctic Tern.
- Broadhaven Bay:
Waste chemicals from the proposed refinery would be pumped into Broadhaven Bay at the mouth of the Sruthwaddacon Estuary. This untreated waste would contain many lethal substances, including lead, nickel, magnesium, phosphorus, chromium, arsenic, mercury and the radioactive gas radon. Broadhaven Bay has circular tidal patterns The bay is a designated Special Protected Area and Special Area of Conservation. It is of particular importance due to the range of habitats that it encompasses including large shallow bays, intertidal sand flats, reefs, marine caves and salt marshes. According to state heritage agency An Duchas “Broadhaven Bay supports an internationally important number of Brent Geese” as well as providing a breeding and foraging ground for several marine mammals.
A study commissioned by Enterprise Energy in 2001 from the Coastal and Marine Resources Centre at UCC found the bay to be of special importance for cetaceans and other marine mammals. The study recorded over 220 sightings of two whale and five otter and dolphin species commenting that “there are few if any comparable examples of a relatively small bay in Ireland containing all five Annex II marine mammals with such frequency (bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoise, grey seal, common seal and European otter).” It found that Broadhaven Bay was an important breading and rearing area for whales and dolphins specifically bottlenose dolphins. The area was also noted as containing “important foraging habitats for numerous marine mammal species, plankton feeding basking sharks and seabirds.” Significantly the findings of the UCC report were omitted from the subsequent EIS, which stated that there was “no evidence that the bay is of particular importance to whales and dolphins”.
A key concern in relation to the proposed refinery at Bellanaboy is the issue of air pollution. Aerial emissions is what is now a pristine environment will include Oxides of Carbon, Oxides of Nitrogen, Sulphur Dioxide, Volatile organic compounds, methane and ozone. It is proposed to emit methane through a process of cold venting.
The Erris area is considered to be internationally important in terms of habitats and many of the birds, mammals and plants are listed as Annex I or II species, requiring strict EU protection. Shell's proposed refinery and pipeline directly affect the following protected areas:
- Broadhaven Bay SAC 000472
- Carrowmore Lake Complex SAC 000476
- Glenamoy Bog Complex SAC 000500
- Blacksod Bay/Broadhaven SPA 004037
- Carrowmore Lake SPA 004052
- Pollatomish Bog NHA 001548