Displaying items by tag: pollution
#SELLAFIELD - Radioactive waste stored at Sellafield poses an "intolerable risk" to the environment, according to the UK's National Audit Office.
RTÉ News reports that a new study from the British government department watchdog highlights the failure of successive operators of the UK's largest nuclear plant to properly dispose of waste from the facility over more than 50 years.
The complex, on the coast of the Irish Sea in Cumbria, is said to contain enough contaminated waste to fill 27 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
#MARINE WILDLIFE - Marine experts are calling on the UK public to pile pressure on their government to create Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to help protect and restore marine wildlife in the Irish Sea and around the British coast.
The Living Seas North West Conference in Cumbria recently was a call to arms for marine experts and the public to join forces to protect the oceans.
And organisers the North West Wildlife Trusts used the event to press support for nature reserves in the Irish Sea as part of a UK-wide campaign by The Wildlife Trusts for 127 MCZs around the United Kingdom.
Callum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation at the University of York, described areas off the Isle of Man which have never been dredged as “carpeted with life”.
He said: “In the 19th century the Irish Sea bed was crusted with oysters. Today it is not just a sea different in the quantity of the wildlife it is different in the quality of the habitats in which that wildlife lives.”
Prof Roberts described how a study showed that dredging to catch 28,000 prawns also caught 12,000 other fish, most of which were thrown away. He also spoke of dives where he has seen the seabed damaged in huge areas by trawling.
“Over-fishing is not the only thing going on in the oceans," he said, "they are also affected by climate change and pollution. Our seas are changing faster than at any other time in human history.”
Prof Roberts said he was not against fishing, but that conservationists and the fishing industry need to find some common ground. “The prosperity of wildlife and the fishing industry depend on it," he said.
Meanwhile, The Wildlife Trusts marine protected areas manager Richard White spoke about the problems caused "by all the things that human activity is doing wrong".
He added: "We are trying to increase the resilience of our marine wildlife. The critical part is that we are doing this by trying to create Marine Conservation Zones.”
Pollution was highlighted by TV star and diver Paul Rose and Caroline Salthouse of the North West Coastal Forum.
“A huge problem is ocean debris," said Rose. "In 43 years of diving I am beginning to see more plastic and less fish. It is an issue that we must use to get people engaged in what is going on in our seas.”
Salthouse called for the public not only to sign the Wildlife Trusts’ new 'Petition Fish', but also to write to the British government as individuals.
More details about the Marine Conservation Zones and Petition Fish can be found at www.wildlifetrusts.org/living-seas
#CORK HARBOUR NEWS - The head of the team working on the clean-up of the toxic dump on Haulbowline Island says the site could be made safe by the end of 2015, as the Irish Examiner reports.
More than a year ago the Government signed off on a €40 million package to begin the clean-up of the toxic waste site at the former Irish Steel/Ispat plant in Cork Harbour, which closed more than a decade ago.
The site contains an estimated 500,000 tonnes of waste, including toxic heavy metals and various cancer causing materials such as Chromium 6.
Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney tasked Cork County Council with responsibility for managing the clean-up operation, which is scheduled to finally begin by mid-2014, according to project manager Dr Cormac Ó Súilleabháin.
In the meantime, the council must lodge an application for a waste permit licence with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Dr Ó Súilleabháin added that an analysis of the results from a risk assessment of the site in June last year had led to the conclusion that the majority of the waste should be left on the site, sealed off and topped.
The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.
#BALTIMORE WHALE - Nine weeks after the tragic demise of the Baltimore Harbour fin whale, its carcass is still afloat off West Cork, creating a “rancid oil slick” in a special conservation area, according to a local resident.
Tom McCarthy contacted Afloat.ie with the above image of the 65ft whale carcass, which was towed out to the grey seal breeding ground off the Carthys Islands in Roaringwater Bay and has apparently been left to rot.
“It has been left here since the middle of August to decay,” says Tom. “The rancid oil slick is clearly visible and extends for over 1km on relatively still days, the smell is horrendous."
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, plans were afoot to sink the fin whale carcass that was trapped in Baltimore Harbour in mid-August and endured a harrowing few days trapped in Baltimore Harbour before it died from what's presumed to be a combination of illness and injury.
Tom McCarthy claims that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has washed its hands of the situation, considering the enormous marine mammal carcass to be a natural occurrence "even though the animal beached and died several miles [away and] was wrapped in a net and towed to its final resting position".
The location is in a Special Area of Conservation - yet according to Tom, no risk assessment appears to have been carried out beforehand.
"Ten minutes on the internet would show that whales are perhaps the most contaminated animals in the world," he says. "Their blubber is contaminated with persistent organic compounds such as PCBs, DDT, dioxins, etc and the internal organs such as the liver and kidneys are 'high', 'very high' or 'staggeringly high' in mercury, cadmium, chromium, etc.
"Some beached whales are found to be so contaminated the whale itself has to be considered as hazardous waste and disposed of as such."
Tom notes that the area is fished extensively for shrimp, crab, lobster and pollock, and that the rotting carcass is in close proximity to several mussel farms.
"It seems inevitable that as the whale continues to decay and is eaten whatever contaminants were present prior to death will re-enter the food chain."
He compares the current situation to a similar whale carcass disposal in Sligo last year, where the flesh was cut off and sent for incineration while the bones were marked for later skeletal recreation and sent for composting.
Regarding the West Cork whale carcass, Tom says: "Some estimates say it will take three years for the whale to completely decay."
Tom adds that he has been in contact with Cork County Council and hopes to hear on Monday about plans for a more appropriate method of disposal for the whale carcass.
As Galway News reports, locals in the Claddagh area spotted a discharge of raw sewage into the Claddagh Basin in July, which was confirmed by City Councillor Catherine Connolly to be an outfall.
Such releases are triggered automatically, like a safety valve, in emergency circumstances, such as after heavy rainfall which backs up the system.
Cllr Connolly has expressed her concern over an increase in the number of such releases over recent months, and their potential contribution to the degradation of water quality in the area - especially following the temporary closure of Grattan Beach in Salthill last month due to E.coli contamination.
She has also called for a report from the council on the difficulties experiences at the Mutton Island water treatment plant resulting from the inflow of grease and fats into the system from hotels and restaurants.
Galway News has more on the story HERE.
In a letter to The Irish Times yesterday, Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment says that the delay – to allow for proper environmental studies to be conducted – "has been explained again and again" by Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney.
He was responding to a letter last Friday by Richie Flynn of IFA Aquaculture, who highlighted the "suffering" of coastal communities as a result of processes that "hamper development and delay investment in the hundreds of companies involved in farming salmon, oysters, mussels, trout and other species".
Lowes writes in counter that salmon farming "is a highly polluting industry", and that discharge of nitrogen and phosphorous from aquaculture facilities "can fuel toxic algae blooms, which have cost the shellfish industry dear".
He claims that the proposed salmon farm in Bantry Bay in West Cork would have a nitrogen and phosphorous discharge "equivalent to the sewage of a town 10 times the size of Bantry".
Lowes also alleges that the deep-sea "super salmon" farm in Galway Bay - the licence application for which is undergoing statutory consultation till 2 October - would produce the equivalent effluent of a city more than double the size of Galway.
"The EU habitats directive requires baseline studies and environmental impact statements," writes Lowes. "Licensees can be granted only if the project will not have adverse impacts on protected species and habitats."
The beach at the north Co Dublin coastal town was closed to bathers after a pumping station malfunction caused raw sewage to be pumped into the sea for up to 24 hours earlier this week.
E.coli levels were subsequently recorded at five times the maximum EU safety limit, and as much as 100 times the Blue Flag standard for European beaches.
The incident raised concerns among campaigners opposed to the proposed new water treatment 'super plant' for Fingal.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, worries have been expressed by locals in the towns of Skerries, Loughskinny and Rush about the effects of the planned outfall pipe in their area.
The Balbriggan swimming ban marked the second beach closure in north Dublin during August, after the waters at Rush South were found to be contaminated with E.coli over the bank holiday weekend.
A bathing ban was also imposed on seven beaches in Cork last month due to high levels of the bacteria, while a breach of safe levels at Salthill in Galway last week caused concern ahead of tomorrow's Ironman 70.3 triathlon.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the seven beaches had been closed to swimming over concerns at elevated E.coli levels in the water, resulting from water runoff after the recent heavy rainfall in the county.
Cork County Council took the decision to lift restrictions after tests this week showed E.coli levels had "significantly descreaed" below the EU mandatory safety level.
The seven affected beaches included three in the Youghal area. Redbarn at Youghal joins Garretsown near Kinsale and Garryvoe in the beaches that can fly their Blue Flags once more.
As Lorna Siggins writes in The Irish Times on Friday, the report identified weaknesses in communication within the coastguard and in the training of volunteer crews, as well as deficiencies in the Marine Survey Office.
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, whose office commissioned the 'value for money' studies, said he would begin an action plan due in October to deal with such issues, which may require "tough decisions" - including the closure of a coastguard radio station at Malin or Valentia.
The studies by Fisher Associates highlighted the lack of a dedicated polluton control team within the coastguard, despite staff having "sufficient knowledge to respond".
Auditing of various pollution response plans was also found to be lax, while problems were also identified in management and training of the coastguard's 1,000 volunteers.
The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.
#INLAND WATERWAYS - The Tyrone Times reports that Clogher and District Angling Club has been awarded £1,000 (€1,196) by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) for an environmental project with local schools.
The Water Environment Community Awards recognised the club for its work with St McCartan's Primary School in Clogher and Augher Central Primary School to "investigate the signs and impact of pollution in the River Blackwater" over the coming months.
“Clogher and District Angling Club have demonstrated their commitment to protecting and improving their local water environment," said the NIEA's Dave Foster.
"I hope that their efforts over the next few months will inspire others to do their bit too and I would urge people to follow these projects and share what they see.”