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Pollution fears fire bioenergy objections

FEARS over air pollution dominate objections lodged by local residents against the proposed development of a bioenergy plant in Stonehall. Carbon Sole Group Limited is seeking planning permission for the development.

In their objection, Anthony and Catherine Malone claimed, “Biomass plants are a significant source of air pollutants harming vulnerable communities where they are located.  “They emit toxic air pollutants including particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, lead, mercury and other harmful air pollutants including hydrochloric acid, dioxins, benzene, formaldehyde, arsenic, chromium, cadmium, lead and mercury.”

Biomass power plant pollution can, they claim, exceed that of coal-fired power plants even when the best available technology is used.

They further allege that fine particulate matter can get deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream causing heart disease, stroke and aggravated asthma.  “The air pollution from biomass can be continuous, heavily impacting the local community by degrading the air continuously around the clock.”

The couple point out that immediately to the north of the proposed plant are multiple dwellings and a school which has approximately 120 pupils. There is also a pre school which caters for about 15 young children. 

The couple added, “The prevailing wind is from the south west meaning the harmful pollution will directly impact upon these children.

“This community already suffers greatly from noise and toxic fumes generated by aircraft using Shannon Airport and also from aircraft engine testing at Lufthansa Technik and Atlantic Aviation Group,” they conclude in their objection.

While the planning application made much of its environmental credentials, the objectors disputed that it is environmentally positive.

The government is committed to reducing carbon emissions by 7% per year under its Climate Action Plan 2019, they say, but Ireland is behind in its emissions targets. Claiming that burning biomass is carbon neutral is patently false, they claim.

“This material emits greenhouse gases which when it is burned are worse than coal and peat, both of which are being phased out.”

The objectors also claimed that there is an issue around water supply as the development intends to connect to a public water main. “The water main passing the site is not a public water main but a Group Water Scheme paid for by the local area residents. This is not suitable for a commercial development as the pipe diameter is not large enough and would impact on the water supply of the local residents.”

A separate objection from Martin Saunders, of Westmead, Clenagh, said, “While I am totally in favour of industry and encouraging employment in the area, the proposed site is completely unsuitable for this type of facility which is in close proximity to Stonehall National School, Shannon Airport and the residential area of Stonehall community, not forgetting surrounding townlands of Shannon and Newmarket on Fergus, and would raise health concerns regarding the particle emissions from the biomass facility. It could also bring the potential risk of the devaluation of residential dwellings in the area.”

It claimed the development would be unsuitable for the site saying there is no infrastructure in place for this type of industry on site or in the surrounding area, which is mainly agricultural, e.g. no infrastructure to carry the hot water from the plant into Shannon town. “There are many farms in the area with livestock which could also potentially be adversely affected from the emission particles from the plant and other hazards on site.

“The area is subjected to consistent blustery south westerly winds due to its location on the estuary of Shannon and that will drive the low lying particles from emissions up to 30-40km.” He also raised an issue regarding levels of traffic.

“Twenty four truckloads of woodchip are required per day to maintain the facility and will add significant congestion to the already busy road which is mainly used by locals travelling to work, home, schools and by employees of the Lufthansa maintenance facility.”

Not only would the trucks increase road surface deterioration, he stated, but they would also bring increased noise and exhaust pollution to the local area, which is often used by cyclists and joggers.

He warned that if there is a safety issue at the proposed site, it would be very serious. “The proposed area is also right beside Shannon Airport and I would imagine could impose a potential hazard risk to the (Stonehall) school airport and Lufthansa factory, close by in the event of a fire, explosion of the gasification tanks or other hazardous components of the facility.”

Owen Ryan

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.