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The battle of the septic tank

The Battle of the Septic TankFrom with picsOn Tuesday 28th June 2005 a site visit to the Rossport compound was arranged with Roadbridge, the sub-contractors for Shell E&P Ireland, to allow an inspection of their waste water facility by Mayo County Council Senior Engineer Paddy Mahon and a representative group of local residents. This had come about after extensive reasearch and inquiry by the concerned locals, raising the issue of possible illegality by Shell.During the inspection it became clear that what had previosly been described by the developers as a 'holding tank' for foul water, requiring weekly emptying by a specialised truck, in fact closely resembled a treatment system with a through flow of material, otherwise known as a 'septic tank'. This was contrary to the assertion by both the developers and Mr Mahon himself that the installation and inspection of a holding tank had taken place months before.In spite of the evidence on the ground Mr Mahon was willing, albeit hesitantly, to once again endorse the developers view that a storage facility was operating on site, even when photographic evidence proved that the outflow pipe from the tank had only recently been sealed up, showing the tank had been tampered with just days before.The engineer then hurriedly left the site, leaving the residents unconvinced that everything was above board. At that point Roadbridge staff demanded that eveyone leave the site immediately. The locals refused to leave until the Enforcement Officer from Mayo County Council had witnessed an obvious breach of Planning and Environmental laws.The residents then proceeded to clear away the area next to the tank, moving timber stakes and concrete blocks to help any excavation that would be needed to uncover the truth. Roadbridge started to panic, and called in police assistance to remove everyone from the site.The Gardai arrived in a show of bluster, ready to haul off anyone who disobeyed their commands, but found half a dozen residents in hard hats and hi-viz jackets and signed in as site visitors, unwilling to be moved until the inspection had been carried out in full. This seemed to take the wind out of the Gardai's sails, and the situation calmed down to an ordered discussion about the problem at hand. During this period news came through that Mr Mahon was returning to the compound, and he duly appeared with an update to the situation. He informed everyone present, including a crowd of onlookers on the other side of the site boundary fence, that the developers had revealed that a septic tank had indeed been installed on site, and that it had also functioned as a septic tank for a period of time before being sealed up.This warranted further investigation, and the decision was taken to excavate the area downstream of the tank to confirm everyone's suspicion. Roadbridge staff cleared the ground, moved in a small excavator and proceeded to unearth the broken stone that had acted as a percolation area. Bilological samples were taken at various intervals for future analysis and distributed between Roadbridge, Mayo County Council and the residents.After a short while it became clear that there had been an outflow from the tank, perforated pipe was uncovered, and a percolation system had been running until very recently. All present were witness to the lies from Shell.The following day, Wednesday 29th June, five of the men responsible for the exposure of the developer's untruths were jailed by the Irish justice system, at the behest of Shell, for previously obstructing pipelaying works on the Corrib Gas pipeline through the village of Rossport.That same day warning letters were issued by the Mayo County Council Planning section to both Roadbridge Ltd. and Shell E&P Ireland regarding ''Unauthorised Septic Tank at the Roadbridge Temporary Construction Compound, Rossport, Co Mayo''. The situation remains unresolved.JM, Rossport South, Ballina, Co. Mayo, Ireland. 02/08/2005

Posted Date: 
2 August 2005 - 9:02pm