IN WHAT has been described as a “unique” and “extraordinarily serious” case, the liquidator appointed to a county Limerick golf course and adjoining housing development has been taken to court by Limerick County Council for water pollution offences.
Limerick County Council initiated the proceedings against Gearoid Costelloe - the liquidator appointed to Limerick County Golf and Country Club Ltd in Ballyneety, for water pollution offences on January 17, 2012 and May 18, 2012.
Solicitor for Limerick County Council, Will Leahy, described the case as “extraordinarily serious” and “quite a unique case” for the district court area in that it was the first time that the council had taken prosecutions against a liquidator for a company that is now no longer trading.
Anne Goggin, senior executive engineer, who has been working in the environment section of Limerick County Council since the year 2000 described it as “the worst case of this type that I have come across”.
Ms Goggin said that blocked pumps have caused sewage from properties on the lands to overflow into a nearby stream which runs past the property and gardens of several households before eventually connecting with the River Shannon.
Kilmallock court heard that Gearoid Costelloe, an accountant with Grant Thornton in Limerick, was appointed liquidator to what was known at Ballyneety Golf Club and its associated lands last year.
Will Leahy said that the golf course was a development which was common during the Celtic Tiger years and was built with an associated development consisting of 108 houses. The lands that once housed the defunct golf club have been close to sale on a number of occasions, but no sale has yet been completed. Mr Leahy that all the houses and the golf club discharged their waste into the water treatment plant.
The court heard that the liquidator took on the responsibility of managing the water treatment plant, as well as attempting to collect the service charges from the households and dealing with the council and their concerns.
“That is why he is essentially the last man standing,” said Mr Leahy who added that he appreciated that the liquidator didn’t anticipate that he would be in this position.
The court heard that problems arise when the pumps block as a result of not being able to screen out materials such as baby wipes. The court heard that the liquidator has engaged with Limerick County Council.
Ms Goggin said that although works have been carried out on the treatment plant there were further complications last September and since then there have been problems “on an almost constant basis”. Ms Goggin said that there are a number of houses downstream and people have complained of the smell of sewerage and are worried about their livestock.
The court heard that only a small fraction of the householders are paying the management charge with the knock-on effect that the liquidator doesn’t have money on a day-to-day basis to maintain the plant. Ms Goggin acknowledged that there had been pollution problems prior to the liquidator becoming involved.
Mr Leahy said a letter presented on the morning of the court indicated that AIB bank were willing to engage to sort out the matter which concerns their asset. He said it was his understanding that they were to engage an engineer on the afternoon of the court case to deal with the issue. He said a figure in excess of €150,000 was being mentioned as the cost to rectify the situation. Solicitor for Mr Costelloe, Don McGann, said he received instructions to attend the court on Friday and added that his client was out of the jurisdiction. Judge Mary O’Halloran described the matter as “extremely serious” and adjourned the matter until July 5 with liberty to apply.