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Council deny work wiped out mussel colony

Council deny abandoned work wiped out mussel colony

Anton McNulty

Mayo County Council have described as ‘totally false’ claims by the Friends of the Irish Environment that work they carried out on a bridge near Delphi resulted in a rare colony of freshwater pearl mussels being destroyed.
A report compiled by the Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) claimed that the contents of 36 sandbags spilled into the Bundorragha River and smothered the young mussels in a ‘matter of hours’. The alleged incident occurred last November when Mayo County Council were carrying out repairs on a bridge but had to abandon the work after heavy rainfall.
An article which appeared in The Sunday Times claimed that the Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Services failed to act on advice provided by several scientists, who recommended that the proposed work be changed or postponed until the summer.
However, Joe Beirne, Director of Services with Mayo County Council denied that they had ignored scientific advice and told The Mayo News that it was ‘untrue’ advice was ignored or that pollution was caused to the river.
“The headlines which suggest that millions of species were wiped-out is totally false,” he explained. “We had approval from the NPWS to do the work but we got caught in a storm and we immediately dismantled what we did. There is no way that any permanent damage was caused.”
Mr Beirne said they carried out all the necessary environmental requirements and would consult with the NPWS and Irish Fisheries before recommencing work on the bridge in the summer.
An estimated two million freshwater pearl mussels out of the national population of 13 million were located within two kilometres of the Delphi Bridge. The Bundorragha is designated for protection under the EU Habitats Directive because the mussels, thought to be Ireland’s oldest surviving species, are endangered. Approximately 90 per cent have disappeared in the past century.
The report was compiled by Tony Lowes, a director of FIE.