THE Department of Environment has confirmed that high-pitch noises emanating from works on the controversial Corrib Gas project in north-west Mayo exceeded permitted levels.
Over the June Bank holiday weekend, some residents were forced to leave the area due to the noise, which was described at the time as ‘unbearable’ by septuagenarian Ena Gallagher. Another resident, Colm Henry, likened the noise to that of the whine of a jumbo jet taking off. The hydro-testing works were carried out by Shell E&P Ireland (Sepil) at Glengad, the site of the gas pipeline’s land-valve.
Now a letter from the Petroleum Affairs Division of the Department of Environment to the project’s monitoring committee stated that a review by consultants Environ of the noise resulting from the hydro-testing operation ‘identified intermittent instances when the noise level at the receptor (NSR2) exceeded the limit of 65db(a) LAeq’.
It continued: “The noise exceedances occurred during the 3 and 4 June at a time that dewatering was in progress. It is considered that the exceedances were due to the operations in progress at that time.”
Colm Henry, who lives less than 400 metres from the land valve, said yesterday that the review proved the community had ‘not exaggerated’ the impact of the noise.
“Our concerns have been vindicated and this report proves we did not exaggerate the level of discomfort. From 7.30am to 7.30pm over the bank holiday weekend this noise was torturous. As usual, Mayo County Council has been lackadaisical in monitoring the project and exercised little care for the health and safety of the community,” Colm Henry said.
Some weeks after the incident, Shell to Sea protestors stormed the county council chamber at Áras an Chontae, in Castlebar, and played a recording of the noise on an iPod for over 20 minutes. They also unfurled signs stating: “Mayo County Council can you hear us now.”
The meeting was immediately adjourned. While gardaí were called to the scene, no action was taken.
Independent county councillor Gerry Ginty, who was in the chamber during the protest and who, coincidentally, happened to be working three miles from Glengad during the weekend in question, confirmed yesterday that the noise was ‘unbearable’.
“I had no doubt that the residents would be vindicated, the noise was at an obscene level. This is typical of the history of this project with the developer forging ahead and then dealing with the consequences retrospectively. All along the community has been repeatedly vindicated about many of the issues they have raised,” Cllr Ginty said.
A spokesman for Shell said in a statement that ‘during dewatering of the Corrib offshore pipeline, which took place at Glengad from May 30 to June 9, there were exceedances of the day-time noise limits set down in the planning conditions’.
“These are the first noise limit exceedances experienced on the pipeline project, which has been under construction for more than one year. SEPIL regrets and apologises for these breaches and any impact they may have had on local residents,” the statement continued.
It confirmed that after a detailed investigation into the matter ‘additional measures have been put in place to avoid a recurrence’.
County Manager, Peter Hynes, said he regretted the exceedances had occurred. “They weren’t terribly extensive in duration or degree, and we will introduce more stringent procedures so that this will not recur,” he said.
Giant boring machine
In another development, the giant boring machine, for the Corrib subsea tunnel under Sruwaddacon Bay, was due to arrive in north-west Mayo, under a heavy Garda escort, late last night (Monday). Christened by Shell, ‘Fionnuala’, after the Children of Lír, it left Dublin Port on Sunday night. ‘Fionnuala’ was built in Germany and is painted in the Mayo colours.
The 500-tonne machine is 149 metres long and will help to build one of the longest raw-gas subsea pipelines in western Europe.
Shell to Sea planned to protest in Ballina last night about the arrival of the machine.