Another spillage at Aughinish Alumina
Another significant spillage has occurred at Aughinish Alumina-less than a year after the last publicly-known incident and at a time when the company's production exceeds the level permitted.
Thousands of litres of a "lime slurry", containing lime, bauxite and caustic, escaped from a tank last Wednesday in an incident that shut down the plant and lasted allegedly for up to two hours.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed to the Limerick Leader next morning that a spillage of an estimated 5,000 litres had occurred "as a result of a pressure release on a lime slurry line from the digestion area".
According to the EPA, a "small amount" of this slurry spilled outside the bund intended to contain it but "this has been collected and removed for treatment" .
The EPA spokeswoman said: "The EPA have requested a detailed report on the spillage and required corrective actions which will be completed within the next few days." According to sources, the spillage occurred shortly after 6pm, spraying into the air and forcing workers in the area to stay indoors. The EPA was informed about 8pm and the following morning, diggers were on site removing the sludge.
In a written reply to the Limerick Leader this Wednesday, Aughinish Alumina said that about 20 per cent of the spillage had fallen on grass to the west of the digestor. "The affected grass area was washed with water and the wash water recycled for use within the plant," they said.
"There was no spillage into the Shannon nor was there any threat of a spillage at any stage during the event. Consequently, it was not necessary to inform the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board." The company made no mention of diggers.
They cited a "partial failure of a gasketed joint in a lime injection pipeline into the digestion unit" as the cause of the incident and said a follow-up investigation was ongoing "to determine the failure mechanism of the gasket".
This latest incident comes at a time when Aughinish Alumina plan to increase production and to expand its redmud ponds, against objections from more than 20 I individuals, groups and families in the area.
It also comes at a time when they are awaiting permission from the County Council to retain their current level of production and are seeking permission to increase production to 1.9m tonnes a year.