PRESENTED BY TOM MILLETT
The environmental, ecological, and financial impact of the proposed abstraction of water from Lough Ree by Dublin City Council could be disastrous says a new report commissioned by the Lough Ree Task Force.
The report was created by Dr Paul Johnston, Department of Civil, Structural, and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College, Dublin, and Jack O'Sullivan of Environmental Management Services. Several problems with the proposed project are highlighted in the report. One of the major issues appears to be the possibly irreversible environmental and ecological impact that the proposed abstraction would have on the surrounding areas. "Plants, vegetation, and ecology need certain conditions to survive. The impact that the water abstraction would have on this needs to be evaluated using careful modelling and evaluation." said Dr Johnston.
The report points out that certain areas in the Shannon are under conservation. "The Shannon catchment, from which Dublin City Council is proposing to take large quantities of water, contains a significant number of vulnerable and important Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for wildlife. Lough Ree itself is designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and is important at both European and national levels," says the report. Dr Johnston believes DCC have failed to properly evaluate the environmental impact on Lough Ree and the surrounding waterways. "The environmental impact on the area should determine whether this option is the best. The alternatives have not been considered significantly," said Dr Johnston.
He also believes that only when a full evaluation of the environmental impact is given for each option should a choice be made. "You need to consider the navigation rights, how the power stations will be affected, flooding on the river, and farm land, etc. You should also consider the ecological effects on the ground water," he added.
PJ Walsh of the Lough Ree Task Force feels that the whole plan to extract water from Lough Ree to supply Dublin City with water is ludicrous. There is major concern from local businesses who use the Shannon that the water extraction will lower the level of water in the Shannon as well as on Lough Ree, Lough Dergh, and the River Inny. "I have talked to people who are in the cruiser business. During the summer there are areas of the Shannon a meter deep. If the water levels drop even further they will be out of business," said Mr Walsh. He understands that the people of Dublin need water, however there is no doubt in his mind that the abstraction will be detrimental.
One concern which Mr Walsh feels needs to be addressed is the lack of risk assessment on the project. The report claims that; "The reliance of the Dublin water supply on a single large-scale source would create a dependence on that source, so that in the inevitable event of widespread adverse effects becoming apparent in the Shannon catchment area, there is no provision for a shutdown of the scheme. And the feasibility study lacks a risk assessment of the viability of the overall scheme." If it is found that the abstraction of water from Lough Ree is causing serious problems it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to stop the project.
Two other options were given to Dublin City Council; they were the abstraction of water from either the River Barrow or Slaney, or from both rivers at times when flow volumes would permit the increased abstraction. The other option was the abstraction of sea water from Dublin Bay through an undersea pipeline. However both these options have been turned down. The Lough Ree option appears to have been decided because it is technically feasible and the most cost-effective.
- ATHLONE ADVERTISER, MARIA DALY 4/05/07
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