Draining of Curragh Aquifer is key concern

Pollardstown Fen is a designated Special Area of Conservation under EU legislation

Pollardstown Fen is a designated Special Area of Conservation under EU legislation. It is fed by the Curragh Aquifer, which also supplies the Grand Canal and the Guinness brewery. The Curragh is the largest and most important gravel aquifer (vast underground source of water) in Ireland.

In a complaint to the EU last year, An Taisce claimed the integrity of the fen was threatened by the bypass, as part of it would be installed in a three-kilometre cutting through the aquifer. This is despite the aquifer being located away from the fen.

It has been estimated that 5.5 million gallons of ground water a day would have to be extracted to keep the cutting dry, with the road dug down 18 metres in places.

An Taisce claims the EIS prepared by Kildare County Council for the project "did not properly assess the impact on the aquifer of this de-watering" and was also "inadequate" in dealing with proposals to mitigate the problem.


Much of the concern of the European Commission is focused on a 1993 report by the Office of Public Works which concluded the EIS was "unreliable" in its predictions about the impact on the fen. The OPW recommended the EIS be withdrawn pending more detailed groundwater, geo-technical and ecological investigations.

Alternatively, it said the bypass could be redesigned so that no significant de-watering is required.

The EU's concern, it is understood, has been compounded by the failure of the Government fully to implement its Habitats Directive requiring special protection of important ecological areas.

Kildare County Council says the main reason for putting part of the bypass in a cutting is to minimise visual intrusion, and air/noise pollution in the vicinity of the National Stud and other stud farms in the area. It does not anticipate any interference with the fen though, should anything untoward happen, it says a monitoring committee will implement remedial measures.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times