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Castlebar asphalt plant under scrutiny



Residents affected by smell, dust and noise pollution

Michael Gallagher

The ‘biggest issue’ faced by the people of Castlebar right now needs to be dealt with immediately. That was the message delivered at last week’s Municipal District meeting when the elected councillors discussed a series of complaints by residents of the Moneen, Liscromwell and Aushaluskey areas of the town relating to the odour, dust and noise emanating from an asphalt plant at the nearby Roadstone quarry.
Councillor Ger Deere had asked the council’s planning and environmental section to publish an interim report on complaints made by the residents and the local authority responded with a written reply.
The response set out how 61 odour complaints have been received by the council since last September. Since October 2021, 69 inspections, including odour patrols, have been carried out by enforcement staff.
Odour was detected intermittently during patrols, and the issue has been discussed with Roadstone management.
On Wednesday last, Mayo County Council served an enforcement order under the Air Pollution Act on the operators of the quarry, and John Condon, Director of Services with Mayo County Council, said the operators have two months to carry out works at the plant to address the issues raised.
“If the works outlined in the order are completed, we believe it will rectify the situation. However, we will continue to monitor the site on an ongoing basis,” Mr Condon stated.

Film of dust
Cllr Blackie Gavin didn’t pull any punches when describing the importance of the situation. “This is the biggest issue in Castlebar at the moment. We want it sorted out immediately and it’s not going away,” he stated.
Cllr Deere said there was a high level of fear among the residents impacted by the odours and ash from the asphalt plant. “It’s the fear of the unknown that’s causing huge distress. People are waking up every day to their cars covered in a film of dust, and surely that can’t be good for anyone.
“We hear politicians saying it’s bad for the health to burn turf, I imagine this is different level altogether.”

Outflow chimney
The councillors went on to discuss the outflow chimney from the asphalt plant, with all criticising its positioning.
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne believes the outflow chimney opening should be much higher than it is. “Planning orders state that the chimney should be so many meters high, but because it’s situated in a dug-out area of the quarry it actually only comes up to ground level,” he stated before Cllr Al McDonnell called for work on the site to be suspended.
“This is a profound and serious problem. Surely there is technology to sort this out. Until that’s put in place all works should be suspended there.”
John Condon assured councillors that extensive monitoring of the situation was being carried out and works would be ongoing onsite.
“We have huge data on what’s going on, and none of the inspections have identified any breaches of planning. Emission levels have been extensively monitored, and we have served notice on the operators calling for certain works to be done to improve and rectify the situation regarding odours over the next two months. If the works are successful – great. If they’re not, we will continue with further action.”
The operators of the quarry have 14 days in which to make their own representations to the council.