Tonnes of foul-smelling “harbour debris” removed from Greencastle Harbour were dumped near a housing development on the outskirts of Greencastle village.
The waste was dredged from the North Inishowen harbour last week by the ‘Otterbank’ dredging vessel operated by Foyle Port.
Inish Times understands the dredging operation has subsequently ceased.
While dredging was ongoing on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday past, this paper fielded several phone calls from members of the community. They were alarmed at the “sickening smell” around Adelaide Meadows, where the material was deposited.
There were also calls from environmentalists concerned the dredging had continued despite the presence of several seals in Greencastle Harbour at the time.
In a statement to Inish Times, Donegal County Council said it was undertaking a “clean-up” of Greencastle Harbour.
It said: “Donegal County Council is currently undertaking a clean-up of Greencastle Harbour.
“This includes the removal from the harbour of debris deposited by the Greencastle River during storms earlier in the year as well as other harbour equipment including used tyres, fenders and ropes.
“The Otterbank dredging vessel operated by Foyle Port is also involved in the clean-up and is concentrating on the Irish Coast Guard berth where quite a bit of river silt deposits following storms.
“It is critical that this area is maintained clear to enable efficient launching of the Irish Coast Guard vessel in the event of an emergency. Some material has been deposited at the site of the partly constructed breakwater site for further segregation and final disposal.
“Donegal County Council has also been making efforts in recent weeks to encourage the disposal of end of life boats by their owners and to that end quite a few end of life vessels have been removed.
“We urge owners of vessels that have reached the end of their working life to liaise with Donegal County Council to arrange the safe removal of their vessels from the harbour.
“This work together with recent developments by the Foyle Fishermen’s Co-op will help improve operations at the harbour and make it more efficient for fishing activity,” said Donegal County Council.
At the time of going to press, Donegal County Council had not provided an answer regarding how or where the material from Greencastle Harbour was being disposed of. Neither had it confirmed whether it had obtained a Foreshore Licence or whether the harbour debris had been analysed for contaminants.
Inish Times has also been unable to ascertain whether Donegal County Council had employed a Marine Mammal Observer during the dredging operation.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), which authorises the loading and dumping of material under the Dumping at Sea Acts, told Inish Times: “There was no dumping of material at sea on this occasion, so no action was required under the Dumping at Sea legislation.”
According to one marine biologist, the dredging continued while several harbour seals were swimming through the harbour.
They said: “The material removed from Greencastle Harbour was dumped on rocks at the back of Queen’s Port, below Greencastle’s Blue Flag Marina, in order to let the wetness seep out of it.
“It was then taken on tractors to a residential area just outside the Greencastle Village, on the road to Shroove and dumped. The smell was absolutely horrendous.
“It would be important for the community living locally to find out whether a toxicology report had been carried out on the dredged material when it was dried at Queen’s Port or dumped at Adelaide Meadows. It was bound to be full of toxins including diesel, oil, and decaying fish, which would simply leech back into the water course and the soil.
“I would also hope the correct licences were obtained before the dredging work commenced and a Marine Mammal Observer was employed throughout. The smell at Greencastle Harbour on Friday evening was disgusting,” they said.
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