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Activists who successfully fought against east-Cork quarry to submit petition to EU

The activists are planning to prevent a quarry from being opened above an aquifer that purifies water for Midleton and parts of Cobh.

File photo of a limestone quarry.
File photo of a limestone quarry.
Image: Shutterstock/Parmna

A GROUP OF east-Cork activists who fought against planning permission that was granted for a sandstone quarry planned for Lackenbehy are planning to submit a petition to the European Union to protect their water supply.

An aquifer that purifies water that serves Carrigtwohill, Midleton and parts of Cobh is located under the quarry. Locals are concerned that if this aquifer is disturbed, their water supply would be threatened, and so are taking a citizens’ petition to Europe.

Construction and building supplies company Roadstone had proposed to extract 300,000 tonnes of sandstone from a 26.8 hectare site in east Cork from 1 October.

Cork County Council granted permission to construction company Roadstone to open the quarry two years ago – but activists appealed it to An Bord Pleanála, who then granted them an oral hearing.

Weeks out from that hearing on 1 October this year, Roadstone, withdrew its application for the quarry.

A similar petition was taken to the EU previously in which the EU asked that the Environment Minister confirm that an environmental impact assessment had been carried out on the quarry. 

Concerns

Claire Carroll, who spearheaded the grassroot action against the quarry, says that locals had concerns about the health implications of drilling near a main water supply, as well as the dangers of the dust from the quarry for the respiratory health of locals.

The main concern is around exposure to ‘silica dust’ – which is found in natural materials and can cause health problems for those in direct or constant contact with the dust.

For those working in quarries or mines, the Health Safety Authority says of the dust: “Inhalation of fine dust containing crystalline silica can cause lung damage (silicosis), which in severe cases can be disabling, or even fatal. Silicosis is irreversible and treatment options are limited.”

Claire Carroll says that the quarry would have been close to people’s homes.

It would have been near the biggest supply of water to Carrigtwohill,  Midleton and Cobh. They would have been allowed to do unlimited blasting, anytime between Monday to Friday. 

Carroll says that a public consultation should take place before a quarry is opened.

“I’d say Roadstone will try again at some stage to slip in an application to Cork County Council, or another company will try to do the same thing.”

Carroll is also working with other local activist groups who oppose quarries planned or that are already opened in their area. She says that they’re “preparing notes and to help each other” to regulate quarries better.

Among those groups are activists who oppose the quarry are residents at Fettercairn in Tallaght, Dublin, who have raised concerns about the quarry in Belgard – the largest limestone quarry in the country.

A geological site report for South Dublin County Council says that the Belgard quarry “has a vital economic importance, but is also of geological heritage significance”, and “has reserves to last for many decades and so the end-use is not an important issue for this generation”.

Another site in Kilkenny for which there’s an application to expand the site at Castlegannon, Ballyhale has received objections from environment activist Peter Sweetman and nine locals. A decision is due on that case on 28 October. 

Carroll argued that the Lackenbehy quarry shouldn’t have been permitted by the council as well as a residential area: “Cork County Council shouldn’t have allowed the area to be built-up if they wanted a quarry in it.”

Cork County Council said that it’s decision to grant planning permission was made on the basis of the planning reports, and that “any new application would be assessed on its merits and with regard to relevant policy and legislation”.

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