30 July 1998 Edition

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British Army bases the source of pollution

Celtic League report accuses British military

By Michael Pierse

The British are still concealing details of a massive pollution problem caused by military bases in Britain and the north of Ireland, according to a report compiled by the Celtic League.

In the early part of this decade the Celtic League, which monitors a range of issues including environmental matters, was intrigued by reports from the former Soviet satellite states of eastern Europe about serious pollution around redundant military bases.

They suspected that the British Military might also be lacking in proper environmental provisions. In 1993 it was learned that both the British Army and RAF had prepared reports which were extremely damning and suggested widespread pollution around both current and disused military facilities. Several requests for information were made to the British Ministry of Defence over the next twelve months but they denied any knowledge of the reports.

In 1994, having acquired details of the Army document the Celtic League compiled their own report on the issue. Pointedly, they identified three specific facilities as examples. These were the two missile testing ranges in Wales and the Hebrides and also an Army base at Bessbrook in south Armagh.

British official denials continued up until mid-1996, at which time, having sought the assistance of British MP George Foulkes, the issue was raised in the House of Commons. An initial denial by under-Secretary Nicholas Soames was subsequently corrected by Defence Secretary Michael Portillo who confirmed the nature of the problem.

Whilst the Celtic League enquiry was general, the group also addressed particular queries to the MOD and British administrative forces in Ireland. Michael Portillo later confirmed that a staggering 600 installations in both Britain and the north of Ireland were affected.

Earlier this year the Celtic League wrote to British Defence Secretary George Robertson asking for full publication of all Land Quality Statements. They suggested that as the MOD had secretly polluted air bases such as Aldegrove in the north of Ireland, missile bases in Wales and Scotland and a range of army sites both in Britain and Ireland, information about the clean up should be circulated freely.

They still await Robertson's reply.


Raw sewerage pollutes mountain

A river a raw sewerage flowing from a mountain top spy post is being described as a health hazard by members of the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee.

The raw sewerage which has gathered in a putrid pool at the perimeter of the British army post on Faughil mountain, which overlooks the main cross border road at Newry, is also running down the mountain towards homes below the base. The pool is about 40 feet by 20 feet across on relatively flat ground before it then seeps down the mountain in a stream and onto private property.

Declan Fearon of the residents group said the sewerage ``is running from the base and doesn't seem to be treated in any way. What could be a treatment plant doesn't seem to be operated as pipes coming from it are disconnected or broken. It's as if they have just decided to let the mess flow out into the mountain unhindered'', said Fearon.

Residents living below the base say that when the wind blows in their direction the ``stench is unbearable''.

``This is a serious threat to the public in general and must be addressed immediately. Our committee is awaiting a report and response from the relative bodies,'' added Fearon.

On Monday 27 July Martin Mooney from Newry and Mourne Council's public health department visited the site and told residents' representatives he was awaiting a report from the NIO's civil representative.

In a statement SAFRC have called on the Dublin Government to address the issue given that, ``a total of 14 security cameras on the Faughil mountain post are permanently trained on County Louth. The Dublin government must take a more prominent role in addressing this situation''.

An Phoblacht has learned that Martin Mooney and a member of the Department of Environment will visit the site for a second time. ``We hope they take samples for analysis,'' said a SAFRC spokesperson.

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1