"This is one of the most important stories of it's kind in Europe."
SIR - The Shell to Sea site inspections in Bellanaboy during Christmas proved Shell’s current operations to be a total farce.
It had already been admitted that no ‘plan B’ or contingency was in place if the newly installed electro-flocculation units failed to meet expectations, and that contaminated surface water was constantly leaving the site untreated.
Things got even worse when a source close to the project informed Shell to Sea that the new units were in fact switched off during Christmas; in complete contrast to the assurance from Shell staff that water treatment would be continuous through the holidays, given the ongoing urgency and seriousness of the situation.
The next site inspection, 27th December, confirmed this. Observers were informed that the equipment had mysteriously run into problems sometime during the previous night, and that this was discovered in the morning by Shell who subsequently shut the units down.
The story was that everything was operational and fine for the six days between inspections, with the system running at 80 cubic metres per day as planned. This suddenly changed when the observers (who unfortunately for Shell do have eyes) noticed the lagoon for treated water was still empty.
The observers were then hastily told that the Axonics gear had only been running at a very low capacity from the hours of nine to five, not at 40% every 24 hours as stated on December 14th. If this were true, at least some treated water would be present … but things could not have broken down during the night!
The lack of urgency (and perhaps lack of reality) continued to be displayed when Shell to Sea were informed that repairs could not be carried out on the equipment until January 3rd, at the earliest.
If these are the shower that Mayo County Council and our Government are trusting with the lives of Erris people, the New Year will continue to see the same recklessness that was endured during 2005.
Yours sincerely John Monaghan, Rossport South, Ballina, Co. Mayo.
Observing Shell in Erris 1/3/2006 - 2:59:07 PM SIR - Despite the loud declarations of "all clear" by Shell and its never-ending spin machine, the ongoing saga of site access and surface water at the proposed Shell gas refinery continues through the Christmas and New Year period.Full access to the area has been given to Shell/Roadbridge staff since midday on Monday 5th December, and observers have renewed visits from Tuesday 6th onwards. So far the working arrangement (almost identical to the visits conducted during October and November) has been cordial and more or less successful. However, full access to the Bellanaboy site has been denied to observers (who are at all times accompanied by Shell staff) with administration and canteen areas mysteriously deemed out of bounds, even though these are in constant use. One thing does remains clear; the urgency professed by the developers has not been evident on the ground in any shape or form.During the previous period of unrestricted access to Bellanaboy the main work carried out was fencing, with posts and wire put up all over the place (even though surface water was supposed to have been a priority since August). Contaminated surface water is still leaving the site virtually unchecked, as it has been for the past three months. The obvious reason for this is the physical inability to contain all the water present… there is simply no room for it. Re-opened drains and re-routing pumped water outside the blocked drains is intentional and constant. This is contrary to information supplied to observers on November 27th by Mayo County Council’s Corrib Engineer Paddy Mahon, who clearly stated (and repeated) that excess contaminated run-off would be tankered off site (but did not say to where this would be taken). Shell’s Agnes McLaverty declared on Thursday 15th December that this would not happen, and in fact it had not even been discussed!The stated source of contamination, the mounds of aluminium rich mineral soil, have been left exposed to the elements. Leaching rainwater continues to pass through the mounds, increasing the levels of suspended material. These mounds were covered until recently, and in spite of suggestions by Shell to Sea observers that these be re-covered to minimise contamination in the first place, no effort has been made to solve this.During the most recent visit, December 21st, Shell to Sea observers were reassured that the newly installed Axonics system would be monitored on a daily basis throughout the holidays, and observers would be accommodated if 24 hours advance notice was given. This arrangement was then immediately broken when access was denied on December 22nd and again on the 23rd.Shell are now saying the site has been shut down until January 3rd, with only an occasional (but not daily) spot check on the filtering system, and all tools are downed at present. This leaves the site in an unknown and unsupervised condition, with observers left guessing what state the place is in.Finally and most strangely of all, when asked about site visits over the holiday period and the ongoing pollution to the Bellanaboy and Glenamoy rivers, Sruth Fada Conn and Carrowmore Lake, Operations Manager Mark Carrigy told the designated Shell to Sea contact that “Santa Clause will take care of it [the site]”.Very seasonal, but not very amusing and not at all responsible.Yours sincerely, John Monaghan,Rossport ,South Ballina,Co. Mayo.