SHELL E&P Ireland has received a written warning from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) about breaches of conditions regarding the construction of its pipeline at Aughoose, a Corrib gas project site in north-west Mayo.
The letter, sent on December 22 last, stated that future incidents of non-compliance could result in the department calling for ‘the cessation of works until such time as compliance with the statutory permissions can be demonstrated’. The breaches relate to the discharge of untreated peaty water through the natural drainage channel into Sruwaddacon Bay and failure to properly monitor noise levels.
Permission for the last section of the onshore pipeline was granted by An Bord Pleanála in February 2011, subject to stringent conditions under Sections 40 of the Gas Act and commitments to an environmental management plan.
DCENR’s letter, to the recently appointed MD, Michael Crothers, also complained about the ‘considerable delay’ in reporting the matter, which stymied an assessment of the implications and environmental impact of the breaches by independent government consultants, ENVIRON.
A Shell spokeswoman confirmed in a statement that the incident occurred in late October after a period of extremely heavy rainfall caused the discharge of boggy water at Aughoose
“The level of peat in this water was above the limit allowed, but this was for a short period of time. There was no adverse environmental impact as a result of it. The incident has been investigated and additional management controls have been implemented to ensure there is no recurrence,” the statement said.
The spokeswoman also said there had been a problem with noise monitoring equipment but that all the recommendations made by ENVIRON had now been fully implemented.
The Mayo News understands that Shell has responded in recent days to the department in relation to the concerns it has raised.
Community group, Pobal Chill Chomáin said its members were very concerned about the breaches and the company’s failure to honour its statutory obligation to report such incidents promptly.
Spokesman John Monaghan said: “If Shell and [Corrib Gas Partner] Statoil are either unwilling or unable to manage a ‘relatively’ simple water runoff issue, how are they to be trusted with the safe operation of a potentially explosive gas pipeline and experimental valve system?”
Mr Monaghan noted that this latest pollution incident at Corrib ‘only reinforces the distrust of the industry in Erris and beyond, and should serve as a serious warning to the authorities and public about the likely future conduct on oil and gas projects in Ireland’.
AS Shell to Sea and Rossport Solidarity Camp members continue protests by obstructing Shell contractors moving materials to and from Aughoose, campaigners gathered on Friday last for the first Day of Solidarity of 2012.
Protests last Thursday led to a stand-off at a local quarry where the owner ultimately used a high-powered water hose in an attempt to remove protestors from his machinery.
Earlier in the week, on Tuesday last, a garda used an angle-grinder to remove a woman who was locked by her neck to the arm of a tree-cutting machine.
Shell to Sea spokeswoman, Maura Harrington, strongly criticised the use of such a dangerous tool on the woman, suggesting that a locksmith should have been summoned to the scene.
“Shell loves to talk about Health & Safety, but it doesn’t exist as far as the proposed Corrib project is concerned. The police use of an angle grinder, last Tuesday, was both reckless and negligent,” Ms Harrington said.
When The Mayo News asked about the use of the angle-grinder and whether a locksmith should have been engaged, Supt Pat Diskin of Belmullet, in a written response, did not specifically address the question.
However, he did say: “A person was arrested on the 10 January 2012 for public order related offences. This person is currently before the District Courts.”