Chem­i­cals and heavy met­als from old gas works site dis­cov­ered in the ground at for­mer C&D Hard­ware store

Wexford People - - FRONT PAGE - By MARIA PEP­PER

COUN­CIL plan­ners are con­cerned about pos­si­ble pub­lic health risks from the Wex­ford town site of an old gas and coal works where con­tam­i­na­tion has been found 30 years af­ter the op­er­a­tion closed down.

Chem­i­cals and heavy met­als have been dis­cov­ered in the ground at the for­mer C&D Hard­ware Store in Trin­ity Street dur­ing ex­am­i­na­tions car­ried out for a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion by HPC Sales Ltd which is seek­ing to build an up­mar­ket apart­ment com­plex at the lo­ca­tion.

Wex­ford County Coun­cil has turned down the ap­pli­ca­tion and ad­vised the com­pany to sub­mit de­tailed plans set­ting out mea­sures to treat and dis­pose of the con­tam­i­na­tion dur­ing build­ing and op­er­a­tion stages and to as­sess and min­imise any risk to hu­man health in­clud­ing that of ex­ist­ing and fu­ture res­i­dents, and the en­vi­ron­ment in­clud­ing sites of the Slaney River Val­ley and Wex­ford Har­bour.

Gas and coal tar were pro­duced and stored on the site from 1865 up to the 1990s and in view of this, an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment re­port was sub­mit­ted with the plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion.

The re­port un­cov­ered ev­i­dence of phys­i­cal con­tam­i­na­tion of soil and ground­wa­ter by hy­dro­car­bons, tar and tar frag­ments and oily prod­ucts while lev­els of ar­senic, lead, sul­phate and VOCs (volatile or­ganic com­pounds emit­ted as gases) were el­e­vated at some of the test sites.

WEX­FORD County Coun­cil has re­fused plan­ning per­mis­sion for the de­mo­li­tion of the for­mer C&D Hard­ware premises in Trin­ity Street to make way for the build­ing of a 45-unit block of apart­ments due to fears over lin­ger­ing con­tam­i­na­tion from decades of gas and coal pro­duc­tion on the site.

The plan­ning depart­ment of the lo­cal au­thor­ity turned down an ap­pli­ca­tion by HPC Sales Ltd, the par­ent com­pany of C&D, for the con­struc­tion of the partly four, five and six-storey com­plex with bal­conies, roof gar­dens, two re­tail units and a car park,.

The rea­son for re­fusal was un­cer­tainty over the im­pact of ground­wa­ter on the Slaney River Val­ley SAC (Spe­cial Area of Con­ser­va­tion) and Wex­ford Har­bour and Slobs SPA (Spe­cial Pro­tec­tion Area) and it was de­cided a en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment plan and a Natura Im­pact State­ment would be re­quired.

‘I con­sider that the po­ten­tial for sig­nif­i­cant ef­fects is un­cer­tain’, said a se­nior plan­ner han­dled the ap­pli­ca­tion.

The plan­ning of­fi­cial said an en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment plan is needed to asssess and ad­dress any po­ten­tial hu­man health risks and en­vi­ron­men­tal risks from the devel­op­ment. ‘The pro­posed devel­op­ment is there­fore con­sid­ered prej­u­di­cial to pub­lic health and con­trary to the proper plan­ning and devel­op­ment of the area’ said the in­spec­tor.

The Coun­cil noted that the site lies within a flood zone and a flood risk as­sess­ment was sub­mit­ted with the ap­pli­ca­tion along with a num­ber of pro­posed mea­sures to mit­i­gate flood­ing. As gas and coal tar was pro­duced and stored on the site from 1865 up to the 1990’s, an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment was car­ried out on the soil and ground­wa­ter while gas mon­i­tor­ing was also car­ried out.

The re­port re­vealed ev­i­dence of phys­i­cal con­tam­i­na­tion by hy­dro­car­bons, tar and tar frag­ments and oily prod­ucts which were ob­served in most of the ex­ist­ing ground lay­ers. Lev­els of ares­nic, lead, aro­matic hy­dro­car­bons, sul­phate and VOC’s (volatile or­ganic com­pounds) were el­e­vated at some of the test sites. VOC’s are dan­ger­ous con­tam­i­nants of ground­wa­ter re­sult­ing in pol­lu­tion and are gen­er­ally in­tro­duced to the en­vi­ron­ment through in­dus­trial pro­cesses. Con­cen­tra­tions of sul­phate, or­thophos­phate, TPH, ben­zene, am­mo­nia and phe­nols ex­ceeded ground­wa­ter qual­ity reg­u­la­tions at a num­ber of test points. Gas flow was not de­tected.

The re­port made a num­ber of rec­om­men­da­tions in­clud­ing that an en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment plan be put in place dur­ing any re-devel­op­ment of the site to as­sess and mit­i­gate any en­vi­ron­men­tal risks, hu­man health risks, or risk to fu­ture build­ings. A waste man­age­ment plan was also sub­mit­ted but it only dealt with de­mo­li­tion and con­struc­tion waste and did not men­tion the haz­ardous ma­te­rial listed in the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment.

Given the con­tam­i­nants present on the site, the En­vi­ron­men­tal Sec­tion of Wex­ford County Coun­cil is of the opin­ion that a waste man­age­ment plan tak­ing ac­count of the con­tam­i­na­tion is re­quired be­fore any per­mis­sion can be granted.

The ap­pli­cant has been asked to sub­mit a waste man­age­ment plan and en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment plan, out­lin­ing spe­cific mesures to treat and dis­pose of the con­tam­i­nants high­lighted in the en­vi­ron­men­tal re­port, dur­ing the build­ing and op­er­a­tion states.

A large num­ber of res­i­dents in Par­nell Street ob­jected to the devel­op­ment and raised con­cerns about vis­ual im­pact, over­look­ing of houses, flood risk, traf­fic, con­tam­i­na­tion of the site from the old Wex­ford gas­om­e­ter and the smell of gases dur­ing ground test­ing in May of this year.

The Depart­ment of Cul­ture, Her­itage and the Gaeltacht asked for an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal re­port as the site is close to the Mil­i­tary Bar­racks which is a pro­tected struc­ture and be­side Dubross House, the last up­stand­ing relic of the old Gas­works com­plex.

An artist’s im­pres­sion of the new block of apart­ments planned for the Trin­ity Street site.

The de­vel­op­ers planned to de­mol­ish the old C&D Hard­ware store to make way for the new apart­ments block.

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