Noise and smells from a plastics sheeting factory in Athlone have caused nuisance and health problems for several local residents, including migraine, asthma, skin rashes and respiratory infections, their lawyer told the High Court yesterday.
John Rogers SC said that emissions and noise from the Athlone Extrusions plant had made one of the most attractive parts of the town into a polluted area.
Mr Rogers is representing 29 residents who are suing Athlone Extrusions Ltd for damages arising from respiratory and other health problems which they allege have been caused by emissions from the company's plant at Castle Street, Athlone.
Most of the claimants lived in Talbot Avenue, adjacent to the factory.
Mr Rogers said factory dust was formed of flaky shredded plastic.
He said one of the residents, Ms Catherine Duncan, who was formerly active athletically and a member of the Irish soccer women's team, had developed symptoms of bronchitis and asthma. Last year the family moved from the area and her symptoms had improved.
While living in Talbot Avenue, Ms Duncan's teenage daughter had suffered from migraine and wheezed badly in the morning and had a running nose. However, when they moved to Galway, her symptoms cleared. Before that she had lost 59 school days because of migraine-type headaches.
Ms Duncan's teenage son had also suffered from nausea and dizziness, Mr Rogers said. When he went to a medical consultant he fell asleep in the room. He was found to have above-average benzene levels and his symptoms had continued after they left the area.
Another Talbot Avenue resident would give evidence that the odour from the plant became worse from 1996. She was found by a doctor to have a respiratory tract infection. She also suffered from dizziness and had a rash.
He said that Elizabeth Earley, who has lived in Talbot Avenue for 37 years, also had respiratory problems and suffered from lethargy, nausea and headaches. She attributed the headaches to the noise disturbance. She would say she could not sit in the garden because of the smell.
She had asked that silos behind her home be moved but was told that nothing could be done about it. In 2003 she would leave her house in the evening and would sleep in a friend's house going home at noon.
Mr Rogers said Mary O'Brien of Talbot Avenue suffered from eye and chest infections along with dizziness and vertigo. The smell made her feel like she was being poisoned. Paula Caulfield had also complained about the unpleasant smell and suffered from fatigue, coughing, sneezing and nausea. She claimed the noise was simply intolerable.
Earlier, John Gordon SC for Athlone Extrusions told the court his client had secured planning permission in June 2004 for a pollution control thermal oxodiser but was still awaiting an air emission licence from Westmeath County Council for which it had applied in July 2004.
The company denies the factory is in close proximity to the claimants and that it permitted permitted dangerous levels of chemicals or compounds injurious to health to issue from their factory. It also denies any breach of the Air Pollution Act 1987.
The hearing is expected to continue for several weeks.