Plans to construct a treatment plan for hazardous waste in Warrenpoint have been met by anger in County Louth.
But residents in the area objecting to the proposals have called on politicians and others with authority in Northern Ireland to lend their support to the campaign against the development.
More than 1,000 have so far signed a petition after a PPC Permit Application – application number P0554/17A – was submitted by ReGen Waste Ltd.
The application relates to a site owned by Warrenpoint Harbour Authority at Warrenpoint Port.
Opposition is mounting and a lobby group – No Toxic Lough – has been established, and it has a Facebook page to keep people up to date on the campaign.
The petition is urging Michael Moody, chief inspector of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, to reject the application.
It also calls upon Warrenpoint Harbour Authority, Newry, Mourne and Down District councillors, MLAs, Louth County Councillors and Louth TDs to “take the appropriate actions to ensure that the concerns and objections of the Carlingford Lough community and beyond” – which are outlined in full in the petition – are “heard, respected and adhered to by ensuring this application is rejected”.
Campaigners claim there have been a number of incidents and accidents at Warrenpoint in the past which have already caused detrimental impacts to the Lough environment and community, such as oil spills, toxic gas leaks, fires, dust, cement and grain emissions, causing residential evacuations.
Petitioners claim: “This hazardous waste facility will only increase this risk of many more severe incidents occurring.
“A hazardous waste plant will greatly devalue residential and commercial properties all around the Carlingford Lough area.
“There will be a significant downturn in tourism and therefore local business sustainability resulting in job loss and economic deprivation in the Carlingford Lough area.”
Among those local residents who are fearful of the development going ahead is Lucia McEntee.
Through Armagh I, she wants visitors who travel from Armagh and beyond for a seaside outing to sign the petition and register their opposition.
She told us: “Every signature counts to help avoid a toxic waste plant being built in the heart of the Warrenpoint community.
“I live in the area with my family. I’m really concerned with what impact a facility like this would have on the environment – the biggest asset of the Carlingford Lough area.
“I am also seriously concerned about possible negative impact on people’s health – especially children and people with pre-existing health conditions.”
Concerns have already been raised in the Dail.
Louth Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick spokke on the issue this week and said he was “amazed” that the proposals for the plant had “not received any scrutiny from elected representatives in the North”.
He said the people of County Louth were “deeply concerned” at the submission of the application.
Speaking in the Dail, he said: “The proposed plant is within 120 metres of residential areas in Omeath. Yet, in an impact statement, the proposers of the plant state that the nearest residential area is over 400 metres away.
“This is a very serious issue and one into which we in the South must have an input.”
Campaigners are determined to pile on the pressure and urging people to show their support.
A spokesperson for Warrenpoint Harbour Authority said: “The proposal from Regen Waste to develop a new waste management facility at the Harbour will be subject to exactly the same rigorous processes, procedures and scrutiny as any other proposed development on the site.
“In this instance, this will require the applicant to achieve the necessary permits and licenses from the NI Environment Agency, appropriate planning approval for the development and of course the approval of the Board of Warrenpoint Harbour Authority, if this project is to progress.
“At this stage the applicant is very much at the starting point of these processes and they do so entirely at their own risk. For our part we will continue to monitor closely how their plans progress.
“Warrenpoint Harbour Authority remains fully committed to working with the community for the benefit of all our stakeholders.
“As such, we have encouraged the applicant to undertake a comprehensive community consultation exercise to ensure full transparency around this project and to give stakeholders an opportunity to have any concerns around this proposal addressed. We welcome their recent confirmation that this consultation programme will begin in the near future.