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Ring Road construction poses health risk to nursing home residents

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Noise exceeding acceptable decibel levels and poor air quality during the construction of the N6 Galway City Ring Road would present a health hazard and force a Castlegar nursing home to close.

At the An Bord Pleanála oral hearing into the ring road this week, experts raised concerns that such conditions could affect residents of the Caiseal Geal Nursing Home on the School Road – adjacent to the location of deep excavations which would involve rock breaking and blasting.

The ring road project team estimate that this part of the project would take 18 months, but legal and expert representatives of the facility’s owner, predicted that this was underestimated and would take much longer.

Michael O’Donnell, barrister for the nursing home, said he was shocked that the facility was not mentioned or considered in an Environmental Impact Study. He asked if the developers were even aware of the 42-bed facility, which had been rebuilt to meet HIQA (Health Information and Quality Authority) requirements in 2015.

Had the owners known the route of the ring road was going to be so close to them, they may not have gone ahead with the rebuild as the proposed roadworks would now “extremely and adversely” affect their services.

It was not only a care home, but a step-down facility for both respite and palliative care for very vulnerable and high dependency patients.

Work was planned to go ahead on the road project on three sides of the property and on one side, would only be a distance of 12 metres away from a courtyard to the north of the facility which was used by the residents on a daily basis.

However, Dr Imelda Shanahan, a specialist in air quality, noise and vibration, told the hearing that the residents would not be able to use that courtyard at all between April and September when the deep excavations, blasting, rock breaking and transport of dug soil would take place.

She said that the dust, noise and vibrations from the site so close to the nursing home would deem it inoperable and create a health hazard to the patients.

The blasting — estimated at five times per week — can only take place in the early spring, through to September to protect the wintering birds in the vicinity.

Dr Shanahan said during her inspection of the site in February, two windows looking out to the north were open, but this would not be at all possible due to the level of blasting so close to the facility.

Work is also due to take place on realigning the main gas line as well as sewer pipes.

She estimated the deep digging would create about 377,000 tonnes of soil and would take at least 15 months to transport, and not nine months as they were being told.

This would also involve a huge volume of traffic, especially HGVs transporting this soil from earth excavation — between 179 or 215 movements a week, depending on the length of the working week.

She carried out an air quality and noise impact assessment taking into consideration the sensitivity of the long-stay care home, which also provided respite and palliative care.

Exposure to contaminants by “these vulnerable groups” would be a health hazard. The main pollutants would be dust fibres, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide as well as fungal spores and bacteria from the large-scale excavation of earth.

These pollutants would cause a “serious respiratory problem, particularly for older people” and would be unavoidable due to the close proximity of the work to the care home. She further explained that the proximity would mean there would be an uncontrolled dispersion process and again pointed out that one side of the facility was only 12 metres away, which was far too close to be safe. Dust, in particular, couldn’t be controlled within a 25-metre range, she added.

The nursing home is currently located in a quiet, tranquil setting but noise from the blasting, rock breaking and processing activities, would be well above the acceptable World Health Organisation guidelines for community noise recommendations of 30 decibels indoors and 45 decibels outdoor.

The site clearance noises could reach 71 decibels in the building and 77 decibels in the courtyard; the rock extraction would create 79 and 85 decibels respectively in the same areas and HGV transport would cause decibels of 69 and 70 respectively.

“In my professional opinion, this would be intolerable for residents as the nursing home is uniquely close to the site, especially the courtyard used by residents.

“Their air quality would also be impacted. It would be intolerable to operate the nursing home during construction as permissible noise levels will also be exceeded,” she concluded.

Mr O’Donnell further added that HIQA requirements couldn’t be met in those circumstances and that the facility would be closed down.

Again, he said it was shocking that no analysis had been done in regard to the proximity of the nursing home to the propose site works at Castlegar.

This is just one report from last week’s coverage of the Galway City Ring Road oral hearing. To stay up to date each week, see the Connacht Tribune or Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.


Proposals to change speed limits in Galway City are voted down

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Planned speed limit changes for Galway City are stuck in the slow lane after councillors rejected a proposal for new bylaws.

The bylaws would have introduced a 30km/h zone in the city centre and 19 other changes, including increased speed limits in areas such as Bóthar na dTreabh to 80km/h.

Management at City Hall have now been sent back to the drawing board to draft new speed limit bylaws after a majority of elected members voted against them – it could at least two years before new proposals are ready.

At a meeting this week, several councillors spoke out against plans to increase speed limits to 80km/h on approach roads into the city.

Many of them criticised the system of selecting roads for speed limit changes, lashed the public consultation process and decried the lack of input from councillors, despite speed limits being a reserved function of elected members.

Councillors were particularly peeved that the proposal had to be accepted in its entirety, without amendments, or rejected outright – they could not pick and choose individual changes.

Deputy Mayor Collette Connolly (Ind) led the charge against the bylaws, which she described as “idiotic”.

She lambasted the “incomprehensible decision” not to lower speed limits to 30km/h outside schools and she said it was “utter raiméis” (nonsense) that speeds can’t be lowered to 30km/h, if 85% of the traffic on that road travels at 50km/h.

Cllr Connolly said the bylaws were “flawed”, and cited the decision to leave Rahoon Road/Shantalla Road at 50km/h, despite a crèche and two schools on other roads like Lough Atalia remaining at 30km/h.

(Photo: A speed van on Bóthar na dTreabh on Thursday morning)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, including how each councillor voted and a map of the proposed changes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Corrib to be opened up as new tourism and leisure blueway

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The first steps are to be taken next year to explore the development of a ‘blueway’ tourism and leisure trail along the River Corrib, from Nimmo’s Pier and onto the lake itself.

This week, Galway City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, confirmed to the Galway City Tribune, that monies had been set aside to begin exploratory work on what will be known as the Great Western Blueway.

A figure of €65,000 has been allocated in the City Council’s 2021 annual budget to commission an initial study of what’s involved in the setting up a blueway trail on the Corrib.

“The Corrib river and the lake are a most wonderful natural asset for the entire western region and I have no doubt that this project has fantastic potential in terms of enhancing the tourism pulling power of the city and its environs,” Mr McGrath told the Galway City Tribune this week.

Should the project come to fruition, it would be the fifth such waterway attraction to be developed in the island of Ireland.

Already there are Blueways on the Shannon, from Drumshanbo to Lanesboro; the Shannon-Erne project from Leitrim village to Belturbet (Cavan); the Royal Canal at Mullingar; and at Lough Derg from Portumna to Scariff in Clare.

According to Mr McGrath, the attractions developed along the Great Western Blueway would be environmentally friendly, featuring such attractions as kayaking, paddling, adjacent cycle trails as well as scenic walkways and visitor centres.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Future of Leisureland secured through increased Council funding

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The future of the Leisureland pool and gym facility, which last September faced possible closure due to the Covid emergency, has been guaranteed for the coming year, following an increased financial subsidy from the City Council in their 2021 annual budget.

City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, told the Galway City Tribune that the local authority was committed to the future of the Leisureland facility and had increased the subsidy for 2021 from €300,000 to €500,000, in the process securing its viability for the coming year.

“We are all acutely aware of the value of the Leisureland facility, not only to local clubs but also to the many, many people who use the pool and gym on a weekly and often on a daily basis.

“Like so many other aspects of life and leisure in Ireland, the coronavirus emergency had a hugely negative impact on the viability of the facility, but thankfully we can now look forward with confidence to its continued usage in 2021,” said Mr. McGrath.

He also said that the City Council was committed to the further enhancement and usage of the greater Leisureland site which could act as a focal point for the regeneration of the entire Salthill area as a major local and national tourism centre.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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