Council 'gambling' with oyster fishery

Tue, Oct 23, 2012, 01:00

THE ENVIRONMENTAL Protection Agency has been urged to refuse to sanction plans for a sewage treatment plant in a rural area on the edge of Blacksod Bay in northwest Mayo.

Opponents of the plan, which is at an advanced stage and has been approved by Mayo County Council, say an outflow pipe from the project will be in a natural oyster fishery, which is one of three of its type in the country with special category A status.

The North Mayo Oyster Development Co-Operative Society and the Blacksod Bay Protection Association have objected to the site at Corclough, close to the town of Belmullet, for the €5 million treatment plant and outflow pipe because of its status as a Special Area of Conservation, a Special Protection Area for wildlife and a commercial shellfish growing area.

The raw sewage from the population of about 3,000 people living in the town and its environs is discharged untreated into the adjacent Broadhaven Bay, the site of the proposed outflow pipe for the Corrib gas project.

The secretary of the oyster co-operative society, Eddie O’Toole, told The Irish Times yesterday Mayo County Council was “gambling with the fishery”.

He said the group, which has 148 members, would not object if they were given a guarantee the integrity of the fishery would not be compromised.

“We do realise there is urgent need for a sewerage system for the town. But we have got clean water in Blacksod Bay at the moment and our category A status for our oysters means that any licensed buyer can buy them and sell them straight to the European market.

“Our big concern is that one mishap would destroy this since the outflow pipe is going straight out into one of our better beds,” said Mr O’Toole.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Rose Conway-Walsh said yesterday a priority for her since her election in 2009 had been “to address the 40-year problem of raw sewage flowing out into Broadhaven Bay and inner Blacksod Bay”.

“A study as to the preferred site for the treatment plant was conducted by Acquafact International Ltd in 2004. This report has informed the process since then. I have over the last two years expressed my serious concerns about the lack of consultation with indigenous fishermen and local dwellers in compiling the Acquafact report.”

County secretary John Condon said the proposed project had gone through a rigorous planning process. “It has already been passed at the planning level and we have now submitted our technical reports to the EPA in support of our application for a licence. We would not have applied unless we thought the site was suitable.”