Maximum fine for Donegal quarry company after unlicensed discharge

October 29, 2020

A DONEGAL quarry company has been fined €5,000 in court after the unlicensed-discharge of pollutant left stream water measuring more than 40 times the normal acidic level.

Buncrana District Court heard that McDaid Quarries Ltd had, at Crislaghkeel, Burnfoot, permitted ‘the discharge of any trade effluent to a watercourse otherwise than under and in accordance with a licence issued under Section 4 of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977’.

The Court heard that Donegal County Council had been encouraging the company to apply formally for a licence ‘over a long period of time’. The company has not taken up the offer, however.

An expert from the Council’s water and environmental department told the Court that he and a colleague visited the site on June 5, 2019.

There had been ongoing correspondence between the Council and the company through 2018 and 2019, he said.

The Council’s representative told the Court that an inspection was carried out at the point where the discharge from the quarry reached the water course.

The discharge contained what was described as a ‘heavy loading of sediment’. The sample at the discharge point was ‘very cloudy’.

A sample of water was collected at an upstream location, which was ‘quite clear’, while a further sample was collected downstream.

The Council wrote to the company on June 10, 2019, enclosing photographs from the inspection. A letter, dated August 21, 2019, was received from McDaid Quarries Ltd. The letter, the Court heard, contained ‘no substantive response’ to the allegation.

“We have met the owner and had a discussion and we offered assistance in the completing of an application,” the Donegal County Council employee said.

Solicitor for Donegal County Council, Mr Kevin McElhinney, said that pollutant was being diverted into the stream.

Mr McElhinney said that the company have engaged a company, Green Track, to carry out works in an attempt to lessen the discharge and a further inspection on October 16, 2020, was carried out in order to show the effectiveness of this work.

“There is an issue with leakage from one of the lagoons which results in bypassing,” the expert from the Council explained. “They’re designed to work in series, but sediment passing through one of them.”

Donegal County Council have communicated with Green Track and conveyed the shortcomings to them.

A representative from the Killybegs-based independent public testing laboratory Aqua Lab, who carried out the analysis on the water samples, said that they measured the acidity of the samples.

The court was told that the general measure of suspended solids at the point of discharge was 210mg per litre. The normal level for stream water, Judge Paul Kelly was told, was 5mg.

“It can have adverse impact downstream on animals and plant life further down stream,” the Aqua Lab representative said.

Mr McElhinney said that the company was previously before Buncrana District Court in July, 2017 for a similar offence. He said Judge Kelly convicted and fined the company €5,000 while awarding €1,593.86 in prosecution costs.

McDaid Quarries Ltd was not present or represented in court.

Judge Kelly noted that, in their letter of response in August 2019, the company had threatened legal action against Donegal County Council staff.

In what Judge Kelly said was ‘an absence of any appearance or meaningful defence’, he fined the company the maximum €5,000 permitted under the Act and ordered them to pay costs of €1,649.83 and expenses of €776.98.

The sums are to be paid to the local authority within three months.