Friday, 8 December 2006

Shell ordered to clean up site of Trim civic offices

From Irish Times:

Irish Shell faced a multi-million euro bill yesterday after the High Court ordered it to take immediate steps to clean up the site of Meath County Council's proposed new civic offices in Trim.

The site was heavily polluted by the leakage of petroleum products from a Shell filling station.

Mr Justice Vivian Lavan directed that Shell must clean up the site to the standard sought by the council, which Shell had agreed to in early 2003 but subsequently argued was "impossible" to achieve.

That standard required that groundwater at the site meet drinking water standards for petroleum hydrocarbons.

Mr Justice Lavan said he was satisfied that Shell had not made out its case that remediation on the council's terms was not achievable. Shell, he noted, had entered into an agreement with the council in February 2003 to remediate the site to the standard in question after "diligent negotiations" between both sides.

The judge said the clean-up levels agreed in 2003 were based on the "conservative assumption" that groundwater immediately adjacent to the civic office site was required to meet drinking water standards for petroleum hydrocarbons.

Shell was now contending that requirement was not appropriate and was not required to protect the health of users of the site, whether construction workers or future occupiers of the civic offices.

Having considered both sides' arguments, the judge granted a mandatory injunction requiring Shell to take immediate steps to remediate the site in accordance with those levels agreed in 2003. He adjourned the issue of costs for a week to allow the sides consider his decision.

The proceedings arose as a result of a hydrocarbon discharge in 2001 from a petrol station at Watergate Street, Trim, owned by Irish Shell Ltd, which contaminated an adjoining site owned by the council.

The site was formerly used as a car park for the local swimming pool but is now the proposed site of the council's new civic offices. The petrol leak was detected in January 2001 after a sheen from hydrocarbons was observed in the nearby river Boyne.

The council claims that, as a result of the leak, the contractor employed to build the civic offices has been unable to do any work since April 2001 and it has sought damages from Shell.

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