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28 May 2022

Legal action underway over Meenbog Windfarm landslide

As legal representatives say it could be 'years' before the full impact of the landslide in 2020 is known, a District Court judge indicates that he may refuse jurisdiction in the case

Legal action underway over Meenbog Windfarm landslide

Legal action has begun over the 2020 peat slippage at the Meenbog Windfarm.

On November 12, 2020, thousands of tonnes of peat and conifers careered down into the Mournebeg river and the Shruhangarve burn on the construction site of the new 19-turbine Meenbog Windfarm just south of Ballybofey.

The river is an important spawning ground for salmon and the true consequences of the landslide could take years to be known.

A multi-agency response to the incident, which caused a major ecological disaster, was led by the Loughs’ Agency and an action plan was put in place.

Construction works on the site where the peat slide originated was suspended, save for maintenance measures.

Legal proceedings were launched by The Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission.

Planree Ltd, a company with an address at Lissarda Business Park, Lissarda, County Cork, has appeared at a recent sitting of Letterkenny District Court in connection with the incident.

The company is charged that it: “Did (A) throw deleterious matter or (B) empty deleterious matter or (C) permit deleterious matter to fall or (C) cause deleterious mater to fall into waters, to with the Shruhangarve Burn and/or Mournebeg river in the townland of Meenbog, contrary to the form of section 171 (1) of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 as extended by section 10 of the Foyle Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1961.”

Mr Kevin McElhinney, representing the Commission, said he was aware that Donegal County Council and the Environmental Protection Agency may also be involved in the matter.

The Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission was solely concerned with fish kill and remediation of water, he said.

Due to the life cycle of salmon, Mr McElhinney noted that it could be next year or even the year after before the full impact of the incident is felt. What was described as ‘an extremely long spell of dry weather followed by heavy rainfall’ was the cause of the slide.

Mr McElhinney said that there were already €25,000 in costs and that additional costs were anticipated.

There were ongoing talks between the relevant parties on the matter, he said.

Judge Alan Mitchell asked what the likelihood of a reoccurrence was. Mr McElhinney told the court that there had been ‘significant works and costs expended to ensure that it doesn’t happen again’.

Remediation works are ongoing at the site to include the removal of the gravel and peat that subsided into waters.

Judge Mitchell said his initial reaction would be to refuse jurisdiction.

He told the company to come up with something ‘to indicate money has been paid over to meet the responsibilities’.

A legal representative of Planree Ltd said that the company had been ‘proactive in remediation works and is engaged with Donegal County Council’.

Judge Mitchell put the matter back to June 7 for a decision on whether or not to accept jurisdiction. Were jurisdiction to be refused, the case would be heard at the higher Circuit Court level.

The Judge told the company to bring ‘something more definite regarding the proposals’.

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