THE FINAL cost of cleaning up a disastrous oil spill in West Limerick earlier this year is likely to exceed €500,000, Limerick County Council believes.
In January as many as 1,500 homes and businesses were left without water after 2,000 litres of oil spilled into the River Deel at the Crecora Mills plant in Castlemahon.
The council was forced to provide water tankers in Askeaton, Creeves, Kilcornan, Foynes and Shanagolden as the public water supply was restricted for over two weeks.
Tom Tarpey of Limerick County Council, who is co-ordinating the investigation into the incident, said that the total cost of the spill is still being calculated, but is likely to exceed €500,000.
Mr Tarpey said that while tackling the spill itself required a significant outlay in terms of manpower, overtime and materials, the cost of providing emergency water supplies to much of West Limerick “exceeded” that of the clean up itself.
Limerick County Council are currently in discussion with the company’s insurers about recouping these cost, and are also exploring the possibility of legal action.
Cllr Jerome Scanlan said that whoever is found to be responsible for the spill, the county council should not be left to pick up the bill.
“The bottom line is, Limerick County Council doesn’t have half a million euro to cover the cost of this. The onus is on the business to have adequate cover, if it is proved that it’s liable. Whoever is found to be responsible, the rate payers of County Limerick shouldn’t be asked to pay for this.”
The spill took place on January 18 after 2,000 litres of oil entered a 600 metre water course before flowing into a tributary of the Deel, which is the source of much of West Limerick’s drinking water.
A specialist oil contamination firm had to be hired to oversee the clean up of the river, particularly in a one kilometre stretch of the Lisheenine. While the spill did not cause any significant fish kills or other environmental damage, it forced the council to cut off water to much of West Limerick.
Water had to be tankered in to schools, nursing homes and creches in Askeaton, while the Askeaton Leisure Centre had to be opened after hours to allow locals to use showers.
Production at the Pfizer plant in Askeaton had to be temporarily suspended, while many bars, restaurants and small businesses were also hit.
Cllr Scanlan said that the wide impact of the spill highlighted just how vulnerable and under-funded County Limerick’s water network is.
“As far as Pfizer is concerned, 100% quality water is required there. Water is the number one priority. If we can’t guarantee quality water, we’re not going to bring business into this country
“The problems that this spill caused should be a clear warning”.