Any proposal to open up the former dumps at South Park and the Riverside for the recovery of valuable materials would be a non-runner – however, Carrowbrowne would be a location that could warrant further investigation if national policy changed.
That’s the view of the Galway City Council in response to a suggestion by Environment Minister Denis Naughten at a waste industry seminar that landfill mining applications were likely.
The number of landfill sites still receiving waste is down from 25 in 2010 to just six nationally, one of them the recently reopened site in Kilconnell in East Galway.
The former Greenstar-operated dump, which closed when the company went into receivership, was reopened by Galway County Council for a period of two years until the end of 2018. It will be taking in 100,000 tons of waste each year from some of the major waste companies in the county and will then close. The Council will then implement an aftercare service over the following 30 years.
When unearthing the unsorted domestic and commercial waste in a landfill, mining could uncover a treasure trove of aluminium, plastic and scrap metal while also reclaiming scarce urban land for development, Minister Naughten said.
“As a result of our throwaway culture, it would not surprise me, as Minister for Natural Resources and Exploration, that we could soon see applications by mining companies to reopen landfills to recover valuable natural resources that we just threw away in the past,” he stated.
The Environment Protection Agency, which is the licencing authority for current and former landfills, said it had closely examined a detailed study in 2013 on the potential of landfill mining in Scotland.
“From an environmental perspective, the potential environmental impact of any such proposal would have to be assessed in detail and, if the activity was approved, all regulatory and environmental protection requirements put in place, before such an operation would commence,” the agency told the Irish Examiner.
The EPA has been following developments in Belgium, where there is a plan to mine the Remo Milieubeheer NV landfill, which received 16 million tonnes of municipal solid waste and commercial and industrial waste from the 1970s onwards.
The project aims to recover materials for recycling and to capture and generate 75 MW to 100mw of electricity from the residual waste by with gasification technology.
There has been no landfill operating in the city for the past 15 years. The last was one was in Carrowbrowne on the Headford Road, which has been filled in with organic material and covered over with soil and grass. A site adjacent to it has been used as a composting facility, first by Galway City Council and then Barna Waste.
South Park has not been used as a dump for over 50 years while the landfill between the Tuam Road and Bothar na dTreabh – where the Riverside is now a popular residential area – is but a distant memory, according to a spokesman for Galway City Council.
“There would not be any, any suggestion of going back into South Park and reclaiming metal,” he told the Galway City Tribune.
“The landfill at the Riverside has been built over so that’s a non-runner. We are intrigued by the suggestion by Minister Naughten about landfill mining. There would have to be an enormous amount of research and safeguards put into it. Carrowbrowne is constantly being monitored under licence from the EPA and levels taken by our staff to ensure it is safe.”
Decommissioned dumps are expensive to both monitor and maintain because of the health risks posed by gas emissions and water pollution.
In 2012 the Scottish Government, via Zero Waste Scotland, commissioned Ricardo-AEA to undertake a scoping study on the feasibility and viability of landfill mining and reclamation in Scotland.
Just 60 documented projects have been undertaken worldwide since the first recorded project in Israel in the 1950s.
A cloud has hung over South Park on the edge of Galway Bay since 2006 when it was closed by the City Council after the chance discovery of highly toxic poisons contaminating the soil due to a historic dump. Galway City Council re-opened the park in May 2012 and took away the danger signs warning of hazardous materials following the all clear from the Health Service Executive (HSE) without any remediation works being completed.
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.
The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.
It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.
In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.
“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.
A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.
A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.
It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.
Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.
The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.
However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.
Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.
The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.
Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.
The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.
Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.
Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.
The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).
The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.
It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.
As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.
It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.
In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.
Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan
Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.
Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.
The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.
It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.
Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.
Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.
“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”
The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.
He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.
“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.
“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.
“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.