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Press Release 9th May 2007

Minister launches report on pilot treatment plant trials at Avoca, Co. Wicklow

Minister at the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Mr. Dick Roche, T.D., today launched a report on the pilot treatment plant trials at Avoca, Co. Wicklow. The lower reaches of the Avoca River are the most polluted river in Ireland due to discharges from the copper mines which have been in existence for over 230 years. Despite the pollution problems, some salmon still survive and for conservation reasons byelaws have been introduced to protect the fisheries heritage.

Pictured from left to right at the launch of the report on the pilot treatment plant trials at the Avoca River are: Stewart McGrane, Eastern Regional Fisheries Board member, Eric Roberts, Chairman of Amlwch Town Council, Wales and Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, Mr. Dick Roche, TD.

Celtic Copper Heritage is an EU Ireland Wales Interreg Project, the purpose of which is to harness the historical copper mining heritage in Avoca in Wicklow and Amlwch in Wales as a means of generating positive economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits in both of these rural communities. More specifically it is examining the positive aspects of working with the important mining heritage in Avoca. Mining has left us with a legacy which includes a rich and diversified culture, in the differences in the landscape, in the character of the people and its incredible narrative. This links us with our partners in Amlwch, Wales where there are many similarities of the legacy of mining heritage on our environment.

One of the project’s objectives is to address the protection and environmental enhancement of the river at Avoca in Co. Wicklow because of the impact of pollution from the discharges from the copper mines. In pursuit of this objective an active pilot treatment plant was commissioned by the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board and Wicklow County Council in 2006. Unipure Europe Ltd, were appointed to install and run a series of trials at Avoca to establish whether it would be possible to treat acid mine drainage from the former mines into the river on a small scale and what the parameters of a full scale active treatment plant would be for the Avoca river.

The findings of this report indicate that the pilot treatment plant trials were successful in demonstrating that active treatment will reduce average total metal concentrations in the Avoca River downstream of the mines by 66% to 72%. This reduction would result in significant improvement in river water quality and the trials demonstrated that active treatment will enable the Avoca River to achieve salmonid fishery EQS standard for all metals except zinc. One of the findings of the report is that one year’s continuous dataset is required.

The estimated capital cost to build a full scale treatment plant is €3.6m (ex VAT) with an annual operational cost of €0.5m (ex VAT). Of the annual operational cost, €300,000 is required for sludge disposal.

By harnessing the historical copper mining heritage in both areas, it will act as a means to generating positive economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits in these rural communities. Grant aid of €296,820 was approved in 2005 for the Irish element of this project and it will run until 2008. On the Irish side the partners involved are the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board, Wicklow County Council, Geological Survey of Ireland, Central Fisheries Board, Avoca Mining Heritage Trust and the Mining Heritage Trust of Ireland.

In conclusion, restoration of the Avoca River is possible as the results of these pilot plant treatment trials have suggested. Regeneration of this rural area will ultimately raise the profile of Avoca as a tourist destination. There are many elements to the rehabilitation and long-term sustainable management of mines sites and this project is an important component of this. An integrated rehabilitation and management plan for the mining area is currently being prepared under the auspices of the Geological Survey of Ireland / Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and it is anticipated that the findings of today’s report will form a major input to that holistic exercise.

For further information please contact:

Dr. Aidan Doyle,
Project Co-ordinator
Tel: 0402 30500 / 085 7845784

Ms. Josie Mahon
Eastern Regional Fisheries Board
Tel: 01 278 7022 / 087 6538202

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