Monday 25 August 2008

Investigations underway into cause of Kerry mudslide

A company which began work on a wind farm on a mountain bog in north Kerry two weeks ago tonight said an independent investigation was being launched into the cause of a massive landslide which killed thousands of wild salmon and trout.

Tra Investments Limited in Tralee said geological experts would assess what led to a two kilometre long slick flowing off the Stacks Mountains polluting the most important water supplies.

The valuable rivers Smearlagh and Feale were badly affected with up to 3,000 salmon and sea trout killed by the liquid peat which blocked roads and swept away a bridge.

Kerry County Council and the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board are also carrying out separate investigations into what caused the mudslide and the extent of the damage.

In a statement, Tra Investments said initial site works for a windfarm, which many local people opposed, began only a fortnight ago.

“The company has offered full assistance to the authorities in helping those affected, and the local community,” it said.

It has asked the experienced Carlow-based geotechnical consultants AGEC Ltd to investigate and Tra Investments said it would make the findings public.

A boil notice was issued to thousands of homes in North Kerry after the slick entered the water system and supplies turned brown.

Around 1,500 homes remained affected three days after the landslide began.

Eamon Cusack, chief executive of Shannon Regional Fisheries Board, said: “All I can say is that we’re following every lead and we’re obviously looking at the windfarm as a possible source of the start of the landslide.”

The Stacks region has been earmarked as a wind farm area but locals warned construction on one such development threatened to cause landslides.

The risk may have been compounded as the area has been hit by constant heavy rain throughout the summer.

The fisheries board will be seeking damages to recover the costs of clearing the rivers.

Fish in a tributary of the Smearlagh, a spawning stream of the Feale, were totally wiped out while stocks on the upper part of the Smearlagh were badly hit.

The adult fish on the lower parts of the Smearlagh and Feale were safe easing fears entire stocks could have been wiped out causing an ecological catastrophe.

Mr Cusack said the deaths of so many fish was a severe blow to one of the country’s top salmon rivers and it could take ten years to recover.

“The River Feale has continually produced good stocks of salmon, so any blow to that would be very severe in the national terms,” he said.

A survey carried out for Kerry County Council in 2004 did not find any previous signs of instability and a local farmer told consultants there had been no history of landslides in the last 60 years.

A windfarm has been built on similar mountain lands nearby and no problems have been encountered.

It is almost five years since the country suffered its last major landslide. Millions of euro of damage was caused after thousands of tons of rocks and mud crashed down on the tiny seaside village of Pollathomas, Co Mayo in September 2003 following torrential rain.

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