THE DEPARTMENT of the Environment says it has completed an investigation into survey works by Shell EP Ireland for the Corrib gas pipeline and is “satisfied” that the developer is complying with licensed requirements.
A senior engineer from the department travelled to north Mayo to meet Shell management, following a complaint lodged by community group Pobal Chill Chomáin.
A report by the engineer has found that the works in the Sruwaddacon estuary special area of conservation comply with foreshore licence conditions and are “in accordance” with the approved environmental management plan, the department has said.
However, Pobal Chill Chomáin, which lodged the complaint, has expressed disappointment that it was not contacted by the engineer, nor was it invited to submit video evidence to back up its concerns. It says it had been advised by gardaí in Belmullet to contact the department with its concerns.
Shell was licensed by Minister for Environment John Gormley to drill up to 80 boreholes as part of its investigative work into the new pipeline route – a route currently being considered at a resumed oral hearing hosted by An Bord Pleanála in Belmullet.
Pobal Chill Chomáin claims that the number of ribs, tugs and boats being used by Shell contractors for the investigative work “regularly” exceeds the number cited in the firm’s foreshore licence application for the work – as does the number of people on board the vessels.
As part of its complaint, Pobal Chill Chomáin informed the department about an incident on August 14th when a large group of dolphins swam into Broadhaven bay, out into which Sruwaddacon estuary runs, and was “subjected to a barrage of Shell boats that constantly travelled between Rossport and Ballyglass”.
The community group says that there was no evidence of marine mammal observers in the area. It is also concerned about the frequency with which two jack-up rigs deployed for the work are being moved.
The relocation “involves dragging through the sand and sediments that are home to numerous species of shellfish that form part of the local diet”. The group refers to a lack of independent baseline study work for the estuary which would determine the extent of the ecosystem and any subsequent damage caused by survey works.
The group is also concerned about the level of private security deployed by the company during the survey work.