Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan says his Department has no evidence two tar pits present at a waste management facility and sandpit on the Mobuoy Road adjacent to the River Faughan have been disturbed by dumping or mineral extraction in the area.
Between 1967 and 1973 tarry waste was a by-product of the British Oxygen Company (BOC) plant at Maydown, which supplied oxy-acetylene for DuPont
The tarry waste was legally dumped during those years - as a result of lax environmental legislation - at a number of sites in Londonderry’s rural hinterland.
Back In 1996 environmental consultancy ENTEC surveyed all known and potential BOC tarry waste sites in the area: this comprised 29 in total.
Now Mr Durkan has confirmed that: “This included two confirmed sites at Mobuoy Road and one confirmed site at Rossdowney Road. There is one unconfirmed site at Fincairn Road (referred to as Fincairn Glen in the report).
“These sites are at the specific locations highlighted in the question.”
Green MLA Stephen Agnew recently asked the Minister if “mineral extraction and dumping which has taken place at Mobuoy Road has impacted on, or disturbed, any such sites.”
Mobuoy Road has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons over the last year. It is the location of City Industrial Waste, which was shut down in June following a year long investigation into suspected illegal dumping on the Mobuoy Road - just downstream of Gorticross.
Mr Agnew has also raised at the Assembly a series of retrospective planning applications relating to the Campsie Sand and Gravel Ltd. quarrying operation - also on the Mobuoy Road.
Responding to Mr Agnew, Mr Durkan said there was no evidence that any dumping or mineral extraction had affected tar pits in the area.
“Two tarry waste disposal sites are confirmed to be present on the Mobuoy Road, one is located at a waste management facility (closed landfill) and the other at a sandpit area. This material will have been disposed at these locations during the period of 1967 – 1973 when acetylene was produced by BOC at its Maydown plant.
“My Department has no evidence to suggest that the mineral extraction and waste disposal activities have impacted or disturbed either of the Mobuoy Road tarry waste sites.”
Nonetheless the Minister has asked Derry City Council to undertake a review of the tarry waste disposal sites within its jurisdiction. This review will consider water supplies and the potential or otherwise for tarry waste contamination.
“My Department, through NIEA, is committed to working with the Council, the Public Health Agency and others to determine if there any current risks to health and the wider environment,” he stated.