Limerick City Council expected to clear the way for remediation of gas works site

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

LIMERICK City Council is expected to clear the way for a €5m upgrade of the old gasworks site in O’Curry Street.

LIMERICK City Council is expected to clear the way for a €5m upgrade of the old gasworks site in O’Curry Street.

Bord Gais sought permission from the planning authority to pump out the tar from deep underground the site, a complex process expected to last almost two years.

According to plans with City Council, Bord Gais will demolish the remaining boundary wall beside O’Curry Street, rebuilding it with rendered blockwork.

Under the plans, improvement works will be made to the St James Mews boundary walls, and a new layer will go over the whole site.

After the initial application was lodged, City Council wrote to Bord Gais to express their concerns over the impact the tar being pumped out could have on the nearby River Shannon.

A Bord Gais spokesman stated: “The initial groundwater assessment identified there could be potentially significant risks posed to the River Shannon, and the limestone aquifer by the presence of benzene, phenol, ammonium, hydrocarbons, and to a lesser extent the lighter aromatic hydrocarbons identified in site soils and groundwater beneath the site.”

Despite this, city planners are expected to give the project the go-ahead.

There will be three phases to the remediation of the site; the initial works to prepare the site are expected to take three months.

The first phase could take up to a year to complete, while the second phase is expected to be finished in six months.

Bord Gais is expected to employ 10 to 15 people to prepare the site, with a further 10 staff employed on the first phase of the scheme.

Up to 12 staff will work on the final phase, with the company saying that these workers are likely to be “specialists who will come in from outside the city.”

Development has not been possible on the site since production ceased in the 1960s.

Bord Gais confirmed it has no proposal for the site itself - but they hope that if economic conditions improve,it could “in future, support a successful and appropriate redevelopment project.”

Fine Gael councillor Jim Long gave a cautious welcome to proposal. In the past, he expressed concerns over the effect the remedial works might have on the River Shannon.

“We do know it [the site] is heavily contaminated. We knew there was always a risk, but we never knew to what extent. We have to welcome this [grant], but we must ensure the site is cleared of all contamination,” he told the Limerick Leader.

However, he said the council is effectively in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position to working on site. If they don’t proceed with remedial works, the danger will increase. If they do, it could expose new dangers, he argued.

“We have got to trust that Bord Gais will ensure the land is not overspilled and overfilled. We are in a scenario of trust here.”