INTERCONNECTOR DAY15

This section dealt with geology, hydrogeology, soils and water

CRITICISM OF GEOLOGY REPORT

Colin Andrew, an experienced geologist from Ardbraccan Co. Meath who is also landowner along the proposed route for the power lines and a supporter of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign made a scathing critique of the environmental impact assessment submitted by EirGrid during an hour-long submission. He concluded that because the EirGrid planning application failed to address and include various important details it was in his professional opinion fatally flawed and inadequate. It was materially deficient, wrong, and thus incomplete and clearly unfit for purpose.

He claimed the geology report showed a poor standard of reporting with confused and inaccurate use of geological terminologies. There was a total absence of site investigation studies to appropriate standards, with no evidence of sites inspected and a failure to conduct hydrological flood risk assessments.

Dr Andrew claimed there was a failure by EirGrid to assess the potential for contaminated ground and unstable or reactive bedrock issues. He told the presiding inspector there was a lack of knowledge of the depth to bedrock and of the materials below the surface they proposed to excavate. The assessment in his view showed a lack of knowledge of the depths of excavations that would be acceptable for load-bearing and thus a lack of knowledge of the quantities of material to be transported from or to sites, with the attendant impact on the numbers of HGV movements.

There was, he said, a failure to address issues associated with mining operations such as blast vibration. Another failure was to assess the impact of overhead power lines on geophysical mineral exploration methods, along with an absence of any geological or hydrological assessment of access tracks.

Although these failings had been identified for EirGrid during their previous application six years ago, Dr Andrew said the company had failed to correct the gross inadequacies of the impact assessment.

He claimed the suitability of individual leg block foundations for the proposed 299 pylons (each pylon has four) had not been assessed in terms of the individual sites along the line. Instead, EirGrid had operated a “one design fits all” policy.

MONAGHAN CO. COUNCIL VIEW

Monaghan County Council senior planner Toirleach Gourley also called on Eirgrid to provide a site specific plan for each of the proposed towers, rather than outlining general measures. His colleague consultative chemist John Paul McEntee said under the EU water framework directive a site specific plan was required showing the location of all drainage outfall and the location of any temporary waste water treatment facilities.

Mr Gourley continued to press EirGrid on its plans for the removal of waste material from individual tower sites and queried details shown in a table included with a diagram of the amount of concrete to be used for the construction of the various types of tower foundations.

Robert Arthur of ESB International explained that the construction of the base of each pylon with four legs and the latticed steel tower was ‘a relatively modest development’. He said the company did not do site specific designs but had forty years of experience in designing such infrastructure throughout Ireland.

EirGrid admitted that during the preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement there were a number of constraints in terms of getting access to sites. Only 25% of the pylon sites had been surveyed. Notwithstanding the constraints, a robust evaluation of the likely significant effects of all aspects of the proposed development, both in respect of the line and the towers, had been undertaken for the purpose of preparing the environmental impact statement.

The working area for construction of a 400 kV tower would extend to 30 x 30m all around the footprint of the base of the tower, with the exception of Towers 166 and 168 close to Lough Morne, which had larger working areas proposed to account for additional excavations required to stabilise ground adjacent to the foundation locations. The minimum width of these working areas is proposed to be 41m at Tower 168 and 34m at Tower 166.

Each of the four corners of the lower part of the tower legs would be separately anchored below ground in a block of concrete. Approximately 10,500m3 of material would be excavated as part of the proposed development in the Monaghan/Cavan area, a figure that was subsequently challenged by the planner from Monaghan County Council.

EirGrid set out how impacts on the existing ground conditions would be restricted to the tower locations, temporary access routes, guarding locations and stringing locations. The magnitude of the impacts at the tower locations was considered to be low. Temporary access tracks consisting of aluminium road panels or rubber matting would be required at approximately nineteen tower locations. It was not proposed to use stone roads or timber sleepers as part of the proposed development.

A report by consultant hydrogeologist John Dillon acknowledged that the construction phase of the proposed development would impact on geological conditions through the use of the temporary access routes and excavations required for the tower bases. The company’s environmental statement said during construction the potential impacts to the underlying soil and geology from the proposed works could derive from accidental spillages of fuels, which could impact the soil, bedrock and groundwater quality, if allowed to infiltrate to ground.

EirGrid said the tower locations had been selected to avoid known areas of lacustrine deposits, intact peat and cutover peat where possible. Intact peat was not identified at any tower location along the line route including Cashel Bog. The predicted impact on the soils and geology was considered to be long term and negligible, according to the company. Mr Dillon said there would be monitoring of sites after the pylons had been constructed.

Figures produced by EirGrid continued to be queried by Toirleach Gourley of Monaghan County Council. When he suggested that the amount of soil to be removed from sites could be as high as 35,000 m3 based on his calculations, he was informed by Robert Arthur of ESB International that was absolutely not the case and such an amount was “totally out of the realms of possibility.”

 

 

 

 

 

INTERCONNECTOR DAY8

This section dealt with construction, including temporary access routes

Following a request by EirGrid’s lawyer Brian Murray SC, the presiding inspector allowed a change in how the modules had operated until then. The County Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee had been due to begin Tuesday’s proceedings with comments on the plans for construction of the 299 pylons in the Republic. Robert Arthur, transmission lines manager with ESB International who are acting as consultants for EirGrid, made a presentation in which he gave details of nineteen modifications to temporary access routes for tower sites. These are in addition to six routes which had been identified by an EirGrid representative at the start of the hearing.

MODIFIED ACCESS ROUTES

For all these ‘modified access routes’ he said they would be making use of existing access onto land and no new land holdings would be involved. He said 95 landowners had made submissions by January when they had been asked to identify issues regarding temporary access routes of which there were 584. But no direct contact had been made with any land owner.

In a document produced for the inspectors Mr Arthur described what he said were mapping anomalies that had arisen primarily from discrepancies in the translation of site vantage survey records onto the Environmental Impact statement drawings. In other words, while an access route might have been identified from an existing field gate, the access route from this existing gate to a tower location was incorrectly captured on the EIS mapping.

HEARING A FARCE AND CHARADE: NEPPC

A barrister for the NEPPC Michael O’Donnell BL told the inspectors the oral hearing had turned into a farce. He said the hearing could not proceed any further and called for it to be abandoned. He claimed that a new public notice would now have to be issued about the development and this was the only appropriate manner under the planning act. The responses by Mr Arthur had been entirely inadequate and inappropriate, he said.

Counsel for the NEPPC Esmond Keane SC described some of Mr Arthur’s replies as an insult to the integrity and intelligence of every member of the public. Some replies were ‘rubbish’ and he had not given a meaningful response. Mr Keane said it appeared EirGrid had produced utterly radical changes and was planning to go through to the pylon construction points using access to private homes in a number of cases, despite the company’s own environmental guidelines. He said there were many difficulties with the planning application, including some technical drawings that had been provided for the route design plan and profile. On one of them the scale was shown as a tiny bar at the top of the page. It also left ordinary members of the public guessing where ground level was shown.

This was different he said from the detailed drawings of the proposed towers and conductors produced by ESB International for the corresponding application in Northern Ireland by the EirGrid subsidiary SONI. In Tyrone and Armagh, stone roads were proposed to be constructed on just over half the 102 tower locations.

He also questioned Mr Arthur in detail on a proposal for washing down vehicles to remove mud and organic material from vehicles exiting tower sites. The ESB International representative said it was his understanding that vehicles would be washed down before they entered the temporary work area around the pylons. “That doesn’t make sense”, Mr Keane remarked.

Padraig O’Reilly of the NEPPC said the hearing had developed into a charade second time round and called on the inspectors not to go ahead with it. Unless Bord Pleanála responded in a meaningful way then his group would not be taking any further part.

Mary Marron of CMAPC said nineteen landowners did not know where access roads would be going over their land. They had no faith in any sense of fairness if the oral hearing continued and the Monaghan group fully backed the NEPPC stance.

EirGrid lawyer Brian Murray SC said the hearing should go ahead as only 19 out of 584 access routes were involved and EirGrid could begin notifying the affected landowners during the next week. The second part had been set aside to hear from individual landowners.

Michael O’Donnell BL for the NEPPC claimed this amounted to an acknowledgement by EirGrid that the hearing could not proceed, as it would now be necessary to issue a new public notice so that all affected landowners along with neighbours and members of the public could be informed.

But Jarlath Fitzsimons SC for EirGrid pointed out that development consent was not required for access routes. These had been included in the documentation. They formed part of the project and must be looked at by the Planning Board when they were considering the totality of the application. There was no requirement for a new notification, in EirGrid’s view.

The presiding inspector said she would give a decision on whether the hearing would continue when the proceedings opened on Wednesday.