Mussel growers lodge appeal over waste in harbour

By Maria Pepper

Wexford mussel growers have appealed to An Bord Pleanála against a County Council decision to grant a licence review to Glanbia and Danone to discharge extra liquid waste into the harbour, saying it could have a 'catastrophic' effect on their livelihoods.

Glanbia Ingredients Ireland which makes Wexford cheddar and Nutricia Infant Nutrition, a leading manufacturer of baby food, have a shared wastewater treatment in Rocklands which handles effluent from production at the factories.

In May of this year, Wexford County Council carried out a review of the existing discharge licence for trade effluent into the harbour and granted approval for an increase in wastewater which is expected to arise from an increase in production.

The licence review followed the granting of planning permission to the companies last year by the Council for a refurbishment of the Rocklands factory including an extension of the waste water treatment plant. However, Wexford mussel farmers are worried about the effect of an increase in wastewater on mussel beds in the harbour and want the Council decision overturned.

Three mussel companies River Bank Mussels, TL Mussels and Loch Garman Mussels have come together to appeal the granting of the licence. In a letter to An Bord Pleanála written by Ebrill Solicitors on behalf of the mussel companies, concern is raised over the possible 'catastrophic effects' that extra waste might have on their mussel farms.'It may be some time before the effects are realised and the source identified,' they said.

The mussel farmers fear that the upgraded waste water plant will result in an 'increased nutrient loading' into the south of Wexford Harbour, with the potential to cause harmful algal blooms leading to the death of 'benthic fauna' of which mussels are a species.

They are unhappy that Glanbia and Nutricia didn't carry out a study to examine the effect that extra waste water might have on 'the development of the mussel or on the safety or health of the mussel and its suitability for human consumption.'

When Glanbia announced the extension last year, it said the €35 million upgrade was needed to increase cheese processing capacity and to produce whey for the sports nutrition sector, a key Glanbia market. The company produced almost 20,000 tonnes of cheddar cheese in 2015,

Wexford County Council gave the go-ahead to Glanbia Ingredients and Danone Nutricia last October for 'an upgrade of the plant, machinery and pipework at the existing onsite wastewater treatment plant to allow for improved wastewater treatment and additional wastewater capacity to allow for potential future expansion', saying it was an exempted development. An Bord Pleanála is due to make its decision by October 12.

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