Friday, December 24, 2010

Lough Neagh Ice - the fog lifts!

Lough Shore pensioners Dan Moore (on the quad) and Eamon Moore with Drew Moore out on Lough Neagh in front of 1 Ingrams Road, early afternoon, December 23rd, 2010.
The area around the proposed Moy Park Incinerator site experienced a period of unprecedented frost in the week before Christmas 2010.  At the time of writing (6pm on Christmas Eve) the temperature has already been well below freezing for eight days straight.  Minimum temperatures were between -10C and -14C, with daytime temperatures generally below -5C.  There was dense freezing fog Mon-Wed with an incredible maximum temperature of just -8C on Tuesday.  All the while the land was covered in 10 inches of powder snow.

On Thursday December 23rd the fog lifted to reveal the full extent of ice cover on Lough Neagh, which is at its most extensive since at least 1963.

The picture above shows pensioners Eamon Moore and my dad (on the quad) along with my brother Drew on the ice in front of One Ingrams Road.  The water is quite shallow, under four feet deep for a few hundred yards from the shore, so its a lot safer than it looks!

The ice extends for three miles to Langford Lodge point in the background.

I rode the quad out on the water from Ingrams Road to the mouth of the Crumlin River one and a half miles to the North earlier in the day.

The picture below shows the winter sunset over the ice, which extends for three to four miles to the southwest.

These pictures serve to remind us of two aspects of the CALNI objection to the Moy Park Incinerator.

Firstly, our part of Lough Neagh is very shallow which has created unique spawning grounds for many cold water fish species.  These same conditions create what are probably the largest expanses of "safe" ice in Ireland when there is a big freeze.  The warm water discharged from the Incinerator would threaten this whole ecosystem, not to mention almost certainly preventing the Lough from freezing again.

Second, our area is extremely beautiful, and is a designated area of high scenic value.  The incinerator buildings will destroy one of the gems in the Northern Ireland countryside.  It will be visible from 80% of the surface area of Lough Neagh and five out of the six counties in Ulster.
Sunset over the ice, 28 Shore Road, 23rd December, 2010.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Glenavy River Ice - Thank You Angling Club

View from ice on the middle of the Glenavy River, looking out towards Lough Neagh and Langford Lodge.  Early afternoon, December 8th 2010.

We're now in the middle of the second blast of Arctic air of the winter and its only December 20th!

The area around Glenavy and the Lough Shore has had two heavy snow falls in December and there was light snow cover from November 28th.  Highly unusual!  On both occasions there was significantly more snow around the Lough than over the mountain at Hannahstown, or in Belfast.  Ten inches of "powder" snow fell on Friday.

For me, the first big environmental story of the winter was the lower stretch of the Glenavy River freezing from December 6th to 10th.

Through the severe winters in the 1980s the lower stretch of the Glenavy River seemed to be frozen every year, culminating in January 1987 when the ice was 4-6 inches thick.  However, there hadn't been enough ice to walk on at any time since, including last January, when the river remained open long after many of the bays on Lough Neagh had frozen.  Our assumption was that pollution and the severely dregadated state of the river was fending off the frosts.[1]

This run was broken in early December after a series of brutal frosts over a five day period, with lows reportedly reaching -12C to -13C early on the evening of December 7th.  A few light snow showers passed through after 10pm lifting the temperature and most likely preventing an all time record low.

The ice on the river was very solid on December 8th, even though the river was ice free on the 6th.  This allowed me to get some great photos from the river.  Do note that the water is 3-4 ft deep at most, so no real danger of drowning!

I can't help but think that all the great work done by the Glenavy River Angling and Conservation club over the last few years ant the resulting transformation in water quality was as big a factor as the severe frosts in the river freezing.[2]  The ice was another strong sign of recovery in the ecosystem.

Amazingly, the shallow bay at the mouth of the Glenavy River was also frozen on December 8th and I got some photos out there also.  It had to have been the earliest there was ever strong ice on the Lough!

Now the freeze has returned with a vengeance it looks like I may have to eat my words on January 2010 being the last time our part of Lough Neagh would freeze.[3]  Watch this space!


[1]  Details of the severe pollution in the lower stretch of the Glenavy River up to 2008 can be provided on request.  See also:
[2]  The Glenavy River Angling and Conservation club was founded in 2008.  They have been actively restocking the river and fighting pollution over the last two and a half years.  See:
[3]  See the earlier blog post:

Rams Island, taken from the ice on Hillis's bay a hundred meters North of the mouth of the Glenavy River.  Early afternoon, December 8th 2010.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Most people can't just move out of the area!

Container falls of UFBP lorry near bus stop, November 22nd 2010.
A few weeks ago we received a reminder of the dangers of commercial traffic on winding country roads.  A lorry shed its load coming from Glenfarm subsidiary UFBP fifty yards from a bus stop.  The incident provides a sharp illustration of the fears of residents along the proposed routes to and from the incinerator, not least as it leaves people wondering about the basic failures in health and safety processes and procedures that would allow a container to fall off the back of a lorry!

In Lisburn last year Jeffrey Donaldson, the MP for the area until the last election, highlighted that he had already made dozens of complaints to DOE Roads Services on behalf of local residents, stemming from issues with existing HGV traffic to and from the Ulster Farm By-Products plant.  There is already a problem with lorries on narrow country roads as illustrated by this week's incident.  Without doubt a step change in the volume of traffic will make it much worse.

Back in October I had dinner with a prominent Northern Ireland businessman, who was originally from Belfast, but now lives in Glenavy.  His companies employ over 1000 people in Northern Ireland.  He made it clear that he didn't feel strongly about some of the issues the community was concerned about (I emphasized he was a "blow-in" so didn't feel the same connection with Lough Neagh, etc, as us indigenous folks).  However, he thought that CALNI was grossly understating the roads aspect of the Moy Park Incinerator proposal, i.e. the danger and inconvenience posed by hundreds of HGVs trundling down country roads and busy village main streets each day.

In particular, he highlighted that he had made an offer on a house along one of the transport routes to the plant; but swiftly backed out of it and bought a house in a different part Glenavy once he learned about the proposal.  We both lamented that most home owners along the routes can't move and most likely won't be able to do so for the foreseeable future.

For me there are a number of aspects to the roads issue, over and above the fact that the local roads aren't even adequate for the current traffic.

The first is that locating a plant of this nature, way off the beaten track, down winding country roads, in what has become a key commuter area is just a plain dumb idea!

There are lots of sites and industrial areas with world class transport links in Northern Ireland.   Is the plan for us to leave these vacant, forget about all the great road infrastructure and start diverting industrial traffic down winding country roads?

Next, and equally significant, the Northern route into the plant passes through Crumlin main Street, past the new TESCO store, a mini-roundabout beside the Ulster Bank, etc. Crumlin Main Street is busy seven days a week and congestion is already a problem and has been for decades.

Why divert HGV traffic through the town centre? Seems like a really dumb idea?

As highlighted by this week's incident, the locals are very concerned as there are a number of bus stops, either for school buses or general commuters along the routes, including right beside the scene of this week's problems and at the junction of the Ballyvannon Road itself.  Parents are rightly concerned for the safety of their children.  Having a steady stream of HGV traffic to and fro past school bus stops on winding country roads is not a good idea; even more so when there is already a history of issues in the area.

CALNI commissioned a professional road and traffic report on the incinerator proposal, by Kelvin Clarke and Co.  Their conclusion was that while transport issues were most probably not a knock-out for the proposal, it was a poor choice of site given the amount of HGV traffic.  However, critically after driving the route they identified a number of issues that needed to be remedied to make the roads acceptable, including widening the Ballyvannon Road junction with the Lurgan Road.

Planning Services and the DOE Roads Division completely brushed aside the issues raised in this report and suggested remedies.

Candidly, this left me with the impression that the people who carried out the work for the DOE did their initial work as a "desk exercise" and never drove the route.  They also seem to be oblivious to the existing issues in the area.  Rather than admit their oversight and accept what were reasonable suggestions from a credible firm, they brushed them aside to save face.

Is this how we want our government department's to act when children's lives could be at stake?

From my perspective, in circumventing the process by not calling a Public Inquiry, Minister Poots has denied our community the opportunity to raise simple questions, including the roads issue, and demand reasonable remedies.


t:  dannymoore_ni

CALNI Press Release
24 November 2010


Another accident near Glenavy has convinced residents that school children and families are in real danger if hundreds of additional lorries are allowed to travel their roads every day to service the proposed Moy Park Incinerator.

At midday yesterday a lorry delivering to Ulster Farm By-Products was turning from the main Lurgan Road onto the Station Road at the Horse Shoe Inn, when one of the two containers on the rear fell off the lorry and landed on the road in-front of oncoming traffic.

According to local man, Damian Horner, it is not the first time this has happened. “A container came off about a mile further up this same road over a year ago and when a friend of mine came upon it, a field was covered in bits of rotting chicken.”

“This time the container was lying on the wrong side of the road narrowly missing cars which could have been coming the other way. Even more frightening is the danger to school children who could have been waiting on a bus at the junction, they would have been dead.”

Speaking on behalf of the community, CALNI Chairman Ray Clarke, said this was just one of many accidents that routinely happen on the roads around Ulster Farm By-Products, one of the partners in the Moy Park Incinerator.

“Thankfully this time someone had the presence of mind to record the very real danger we face daily on these small rural roads.  It is inconceivable that the Roads Service believe these roads are suitable to handle hundreds of additional lorries every day.

“This Incinerator must be stopped and we call on Edwin Poots to reconsider his decision rather than force the community to continue with court action.”


For further information contact Sheila Davidson on 07785793672