Protests escalate against north Dublin sewage plant

Public consultation process finishes this week

Clonshaugh farmer Joe Jones said opponents are campaigning against the plant on environmental grounds. Photograph: Eric Luke/THE IRISH TIMES

Clonshaugh farmer Joe Jones said opponents are campaigning against the plant on environmental grounds. Photograph: Eric Luke/THE IRISH TIMES


Opponents of a regional wastewater treatment plant earmarked for north Co Dublin will step up their campaign against the facility ahead of a public consultation deadline this week.

They say they hope to make as many as 10,000 submission to Greater Dublin Drainage-the company handling the project on behalf of Fingal County Council-by the consultation deadline this Friday.

“All week up until Wednesday, Thursday there’ll be groups going out knocking on doors, engaging with people and just letting them know what’s going on,” said Eoghan O’Brien, a local Fianna Fáil councillor.

A number of campaign groups emerged following the announcement in early June that a site at Clonshaugh, 2.2km east of Dublin Airport, was the desired location for the 23-hectare plant while Baldoyle had been chosen as the site of the outfall pipe.

The plant will be one of the largest in the country, with an eventual capacity for the equivalent of 700,000 people. Opponents say the facility is too big and have raised concerns about the consequences of a system failure.

Philip Swan from Portmarnock Drainage Awareness said local residents realise there is a need to increase the wastewater capacity in the region, but they would prefer to see existing plants upgraded or a series of smaller facilities built instead.

“What we’d like the council to do is rather than just go on what seems on paper to be the cheaper option-we’ve all got the guts of 15 treatment plants in the fingal area, why don’t they just upgrade them?” he said.

The project will cost an estimated €480 million and will consist of a 26km orbital sewer, a plant at Clonshaugh and an outfall pipe 6km out to sea from Baldoyle. Three locations in north Dublin had been shortlisted for the site, including Annsbrook and Newtowncorduff near Lusk, both with an outfall near Loughshinny, north of Rush.

Greater Dublin Drainage has said said tunnelling at the chosen site is easier and the outfall location has a greater depth of water for discharge. The engineers also said the site would cause the least ecological disruption.

Project managers have been meeting with locals at open days over the past month and a half. The purpose of the current phase of consultation is to inform the Environmental Impact Statement being prepared as part of the planning application, which they hope to bring to An Bord Pleanala early next year.

Opponents hope to defeat the site on environmental grounds. “Our way forward will be an environmental route,” said Joe Jones, a farmer from Clonshaugh who, along with his father, PJ, stands to lose 35 acres of his 120 acre farm under the project.

“It just seems absolutely ludicrous that they are going to dump that amount of sewage [treated wastewater] out on the beach on Portmarnock there,” he said. “If there is an incident in the plant and they do have to put out some raw sewage, where will it end up? What beaches is it going to land on? What beaches are they going to have to close?”

Miriam Kelly, chair of the Riverside Residents Association, said she was concerned about possible odours coming from the plant and how it might affect local business. When Dublin’s principal sewage treatment plant at Poolbeg was upgraded several years ago, the stench from the facility travelled on an east wind as far as Donnybrook. Eventually the authorities spent €5 million sorting it out.

“It’s going to stop jobs,” Ms Kelly said. “No one is going to build a hotel next to a sewage plant so in fairness those sort of jobs that would be there because we’re so near the airport are going to be gone and there’s high unemployment around the area so we could do with more things along there.”