Concerns raised over proposed hazardous waste plant near lough
Port authorities near one of Ireland's most environmentally sensitive regions have asked a waste firm to shelve plans for a new facility to process hazardous liquids.
Environment chiefs have been assessing an application by Re-Gen to operate the plant in Warrenpoint, Co Down amid mounting opposition from oyster farmers and campaigners on both sides of the border around Carlingford Lough.
The Newry-based waste firm applied to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) for a licence in February.
There was no obligation to seek consent from the Environmental Protection Agency in the Republic despite the port overlooking the border.
Peter Conway, chief executive of Warrenpoint Harbour Authority, revealed a hazardous waste facility is not part of its master plan for the next 35 years.
"The plan demonstrates the highly significant economic value the port is to the local community and evaluates the best possible cargo mix for the benefit of the port, the community, the environment and the regional economy," he said.
"As part of this process, the proposed operation of a hazardous waste plant within the harbour estate does not feature in the Warrenpoint Harbour Plan.
"In these circumstances, and although at this stage no formal proposal for such a facility has been placed before it, the board of Warrenpoint Harbour Authority has decided to request that Re-Gen withdraws its current licence application to the NIEA."
Hundreds of tonnes of oysters and mussels are harvested every year from the waters in Carlingford.
Campaigners opposed to the hazardous waste facility also claimed the port site is too close to the Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) on the northern shore, it is 1km from a special area of conservation and the wider lough area also includes a marine conservation zone and a special protection area.
Olivia McCartan, of the No Toxic Lough group, said: "One of the most protected areas on the east coast of Ireland and they were looking to put a hazardous waste facility in here, w e will still keep up pressure until Re-Gen officially withdraw their application."
It is understood the NIEA has until the end of August to assess company's proposal.
Sinead Bradly, SDLP MLA from Warrenpoint, this week took it upon herself to bring a copy of the Re-Gen licence application out of the NIEA offices in the Gasworks in Belfast to her local town hall.
She asked: "Is this the right location for this type of work to be carried out?
"There's always risk where this business is carried out and you can only mitigate against that.
"The proximity to the lough gives me serious concern."
Re-Gen responded to the harbour chief's request by saying it was aware of concerns.
The waste firm said it had offered to sit down with the No Toxic Lough group, Mr Conway and the local Carlingford community north and south before making any further decisions.
Re-Gen said it would "seriously consider their views."