FIE: Whistleblowers campaign targets midland’s industrial turf extraction

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From a Friends of the Irish Environment press release, 5 March 2013

A full page advertisement in the Roscommon Herald this week begins a public ‘whistleblowers’ campaign targeting the industrial extraction of turf in the Irish midlands.

Launched by the environmental lobby group Friends of the Irish Environment, ‘Say Goodbye to Ireland’s Bogs’ is appealing to the public to contact them with details of the extraction.

The group has a confidential 24-hour hotline to take calls and an email address. ‘Unlike the local authority, we are not concerned with the identity of complainants.’

We want ordinary people across Ireland to help assess the scale of this problem – even just by identifying the locations of industrial peat extraction in their own townlands. We are a small voluntary organisation and can only succeed in bringing these enormous operations under control if the public is willing to help. We have spent 3 years compiling reports and appealing to Irish and European authorities to no avail.’

‘Two of the largest operators – Bulrush and  Klasmann-Deilmann – are German and Danish. It is estimated that 90% of the harvested peat is being exported, principally to Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Britain, France and Italy.’

‘A whistleblower first alerted us in 2009 to the scale of the unregulated extraction of peat across the midlands. He provided locations of operations with photographs through an anonymous hotmail address. On subsequent site visits, we have found sites more than 100 hectares in extent. Many are discharging directly into rivers and lakes, causing untold damage to wildlife and water quality.’

The group has also written to all local County Councilors in the midlands, asking them to raise the issue at a Council meeting to ask if their Planning Authorities have completed their legal obligation to list all such sites in the Register of Extractive Industries. ‘This register is a legal requirement since 2009 but we know that many councils have not devoted the necessary resources to meet this requirement, which should be the first step in assessing the ongoing damage these extractions are causing.’

The advertisement concludes that ‘The effects of peat extraction and site drainage implemented without any environmental impact assessments have urgent public health and economic consequences. To date, over 120 human water supplies have been identified as having excessive levels of carcinogenic pollutants which are a known product of peat drainage and chlorine in drinking water