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Fishermen’s row over Corrib discharge pipe

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Fishermen’s row over Corrib discharge pipe Áine Ryan A WAR of words has erupted between two fishermen’s organisations in north Mayo, over varying claims about the pollution potential of the Corrib refinery’s discharge pipe, which is to be situated near Broadhaven Bay and on a rich fishery ground. “I am very concerned that scare-stories about possible pollution from the Corrib refinery will have a negative effect on the saleability of our fish. It won’t really matter if Shell is discharging toxic waste or distilled water, if both the public and fish-buyers believe our fish are contaminated,” said Mr William Walker, the Chairman of the recently-formed Erris Lobster and Restocking Committee (ELCRA). He was referring particularly to a recent article in The Irish Skipper, entitled ‘Fishermen’s anxiety over discharges into Broadhaven Bay’. In this article, the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association (EIFA) expressed its serious concerns about the location of the Corrib discharge pipe. The article states: “The fishermen are adamant that the pollutants, which will occur as a result of the gas being refined at Bellanaboy, should be disposed of safely on land or re-injected into the sub-sea caverns from whence they came.” However, Mr Walker says his extensive research of the negative impacts of established and comparable refineries in Shetland prove negligible pollution. He cites one condition of the IPPC (Integrated Pollution Prevention Control) licence granted in November last by the EPA, which demands ‘a robust monitoring regime’ which will involve tester cages of mussels being deployed close to the discharge pipe, as an early warning system for contamination. The Chairman of EIFA, Mr Eddie Diver, challenges Mr Walker’s assessment, however, and refers to the report of the Marine Licence Vetting Committee (MLVC), appointed by former Minister Frank Fahey in 2000. It stated: “This treated effluent will still retain a number of toxic heavy metals and their components, including mercury and cadmium, that have the capacity to accumulate in sediments and biota with potential negative consequences for marine organism and public health.” Mr Diver says that ‘local fishermen are adamant that, at the present discharge location, no dispersion will take place’ and, moreover, ‘instead the pollution will back into Broadhaven Bay’ to render untold damage. Eddie Diver also says that EIFA represents the majority of fishermen in Erris (around 40 of the 50 boats between Belderrig and Blacksod). He says that the organisation of which William Walker ‘claims to be chairman, is somewhat of a mystery’. However, Mr Walker confirmed to The Mayo News that he represented around ten fishing boats. When contacted, Shell confirmed they have adopted ‘a belt and braces’ approach to the management of impacts from the treated water coming from the refinery. “By virtue of the fact that the water is treated to Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) it does not, by definition, have any negative impact on the marine environment even if it was not dispersed. And because the outfall pipeline will be located in 68.5 metres of water, 12.7km from the shore, there will be substantial dilution,” said spokesman, John Egan. He referred to EPA Inspector, Frank Clinton’s report which stated that ‘there is no credible likelihood of bio-accumulation or bio-magnification of undesirable contaminants within the marine ecosystem’. Ironically, both fishermen’s groups agree that Shell must move the pipe from the fishery grounds. William Walker said yesterday that his organisation will not co-operate with Shell if the location of the discharge pipe, which has a 1km exclusion zone, is not moved off the fishery ground. “The present location of the discharge pipe would have safety implications as fishermen, with small half-deckers, would be forced to fish further out to sea,” said Mr Walker. Meanwhile, Shell confirmed to The Mayo News yesterday it would examine any ‘realistic proposal’ regarding an ‘alternative location’ put to them by the fishermen’s organisations. Mr Egan said that the Chairman of the Environmental Monitoring Group (for Corrib), Mr Ciarán hÓbáin invited EIFA at its last meeting, in December, to take the initiative and make ‘a realistic proposal’ about an alternative location. However, EIFA had not come back to date with any proposals. He declined to comment, however, on information received by The Mayo News that it was common knowledge among fishermen in Erris that Shell would move the pipe but not far enough to allay concerns.
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Posted Date: 
6 February 2008 - 6:18pm