The beautiful River Boyne, a priceless asset to the people of Ireland many of whom are unsurprisingly wary of industry using it for waste disposal. Photo: Andy Spearman.
People of a certain age will remember that the river Boyne at Drogheda used to be absolutely filthy, on sunny days it smelled to high heaven.
This was caused by the widespread and unfcontrolled pollution that had gone on since time immemorial and the worst offenders were the local authorities in Drogheda and in town’s upstream who emptied the public sewerage system, totally untreated, into the river.
Local farmers and industry could be excused then for doing the same and at times in Drogheda the Boyne would run red with the effluent from an abattoir in Dyer Street and almost any colour in the rainbow when Ushers Mill released fabric dye from their drain at Donor’s Green.
The world has moved on since then and these dys the beautiful Boyne Valley is seen as a major asset in its own right and the importance of our inland waterways for leisure and tourism is finally being taken seriously.
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So it was bound to raise concerns among conservationists and the population generally, when Dawn Meats applied for permission to install a 7.2 km pipeline from its premises at Beauparc near Slane to a new discharge point into the River Boyne which is of course the source of drinking water for thousands of households.
Dawn Meats say they are “committed to environmental sustainability across its entire business and the proposed development at Dawn Slane, put forward for approval to Meath Co. Co. is consistent with environmental best practise” but many are not convinced.
“This is a multi million euro investment in a state of the art water treatment plant which will produce compliant water” say Dawn. “The site is licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who engage with the site on an ongoing basis.
They claim that the pipeline “will have a positive impact on the wider Painestown area through the removal of tanker traffic from local roads and third-party studies have risk assessed no negative impact on the river Boyne or surrounding habitats.
“The flow rate from the treatment facility has been based upon the assimilative capacity of the River Boyne, the current water quality of the river and comments made by Meath County Council. The assessment concluded that the River Boyne would have sufficient assimilative capacity to accommodate the delivered water from the Dawn Meats (Slane) facility.”
Many people are still not convinced though and an online petition called Save the Boyne has attracted almost 1,500 signatures from people worried about the impact on water quality and natural habitats.
Local politicians have also expressed their concern, Labour TD Ged Nash says is very concerning that the proposal looks at the "Assimilative Capacity" of the River Boyne to absorb pollutants without detrimental effects to the environment or those who use it.
“While recognising that Dawn Meat Ireland provides employment in the locality and the need to support such enterprises is very important, this application ought to be considered exclusively on planning and environmental grounds only" he said.
“Given that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) has found that “cost savings to the company cannot outweigh the impact on the environment and those that depend on the river”, it is clear that the project if allowed to proceed would lead to a clear risk if significant deterioration of the River Boyne’s water quality...
“I therefore strongly urge you on these grounds to reject the proposal submitted by Dawn Meat Ireland and I look forward to hearing the outcome of the application process in due course.”
Deputy Fergus O’Dowd said that he too was concerned about Dawn’s plans and urged them to seek more reasonable alternatives that offer greater protection to the water supply.
“I am very concerned about any possible pollution to our water supply” he said, adding that it should be a requirement if the project gets the go-ahead that Dawn should discharge the treated effluent upstream of their plant."
Sinn Feín TD Imelda Munster said that the issue raises "serious concerns, and justifiable concerns".
"Myself along with my colleagues Cllr. Tom Cunningham and Cllr Joanna Byrne are currently finalising a very detailed submission to MCC raising those concerns and seeking answers to the many questions raised."
Councillor James Byrne recalled the water shortages of a few years back and the problems at the Staleen Treatment Plant.
"The upgrades to the plant were carried out to safeguard the water supply to homes and businesses in the area. If this planning application is successful it will give Dawn Meats the go ahead to pump treated effluent into the Boyne a few short miles upstream from where your drinking water is sourced.
“This would be a retrograde step from a public health and environmental perspective. As well as being a vital resource for drinking water the River Boyne is a wonderful amenity for angling, boating and much more and we’re really only now beginning to tap into its potential.”
“I would urge as many people as possible to lodge a submission to Meath County Council by 8 April next.
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