Concern over claims Dundalk’s water supply could be polluted by fuel launderers

Contaminated water pictured in a stream outside Castleblayney last week by The Sunday Independent

Contaminated water pictured in a stream outside Castleblayney last week by The Sunday Independent

Louth County Council will meet for the first time this year later this morning with a report that oil launderers are pumping toxic waste into local water supplies set to feature heavily on the agenda.

Yesterday’s Sunday Independent claimed that the fuel smugglers were pumping the fuel laundering waste into local rivers and said it could be causing cancers and abnormalities in unborn babies.

The investigation by Jim Cusack found evidence of carcinogenic waste flowing from an illegal fuel plant in south Armagh into Lough Muckno, Lough Ross and the River Fane, which is the main reservoir for the whole of Dundalk.

A sample of water taken by the newspaper last week was shown to contain 8,000 times more chemical pollution than clean drinking water.

The sample, taken from directly behind the plant, one of dozens used by paramilitary smugglers in south Armagh, is also 400 times over the maximum chemical content of waste set by the European Union and Irish Water.

The toxic waste is being pumped directly into a stream that feeds directly into the River Fane drinking water system.

Around 40,000 people living in Dundalk – plus another 8,000 in Crossmaglen in south Armagh – are drinking water from the system that is being poisoned by the IRA fuel launderers.

Chemicals in the pollution almost certainly include polycyclic hydrocarbons that are linked to cancers and prenatal disorders.

Preliminary analysis has already shown that a chemical-oxygen demand (COD) in the sample taken is 8,000mg per litre. There should be near-zero COD in drinking water for humans.

The level of poison was so high that it was off the normal mid-range tests that are used for drinking water in Ireland.

The most common dangerous compounds found in the diesel washing by-product are polycyclic aromatic hydrocabons (PAH).

Tests done on industrial pollutants containing PAHs by the Centre for Children’s Environmental Health have found that exposure during pregnancy has produced heart malformations, premature delivery and low birth weight. Exposure has also been linked to cancers and developmental under-development among children.

Commenting on the matter, Sinn Féin councillor Tomás Sharkey said the alleged pollution was of “serious concern” to him and all public representatives in Louth.

“Cavan Hill water treatment plant supplies most of Dundalk and much of the surrounding area. It draws water from the Fane River. If the details in the paper are true, there is a chance that the water entering the treatment plant is contaminated. This raises obvious concerns for human health and environmental protection.

“I have contacted the Sunday Independent and have asked that any information gathered for that article be shared with the relevant authorities and have specifically asked that laboratory test results on water samples be shared with the staff of Louth County Council.

“Once again, on behalf of all Sinn Féin Councillors in Louth, I am asking the public to be vigilant for incidents of dumping of diesel laundering waste and and also asking for a new report on the workings of the multi agency approach which was tasked with tackling this problem in 2011.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil councillor Declan Breathnach has called on the EPA to investigate the claims made in the paper so that the town can stand over the quality of its water supply once more.

You can read the full Sunday Independent article here.

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