18 APRIL 2016





The Minister for Agriculture has been urged not to end the suspension of timber felling at Castle Forbes Estate in County Longford until a full investigation has been undertaken.

The suspension was initiated by the Forest Service on April 5, 2016 after a complaint was lodged by the environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment for General Felling Licences issued in January and February of this year.

In today’s letter, the group alleges that neither of the two licenses granted required that work not take place during the bird nesting season from 1 May to 30 September.

‘While a 2014 license had a bird protection condition attached, two General Felling Licenses were granted this year with no restrictions in this woodland, which is recorded as a mature forest with oak, elm, and ash as early as 1682’, said Tony Lowes of FIE. ‘Birdlife reported within the woodland includes protected species such as the kestrel, the woodpecker, and mammals such as stoats and red squirrel’s.

According to FIE ‘The site is designated as a Special Area of Conservation and should have been subject to an Appropriate Assessment to ensure no damage would be done by the felling operations under the Habitats Regulations 2011 but the ‘screening’ checklist produced to meet the requirements of the law has been shown to be inadequate to protect our environment.’

‘Not only was there no bird protection of the felling licence, but the conditions restricting the licences to ‘poor quality stems’ and ‘thinning’ in fact included mature hardwoods in a protected ancient woodland. This is completely unacceptable’, Mr Lowes said.

‘It appears that the Forest Service’s highly qualified ecologist was not consulted and that the Parks and Wildlife Service failed to flag the potential damage. The legislation is unequivocal that ‘an Appropriate Assessment of a plan or project is required where the plan or project is not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the site as a European Site and if it cannot be excluded, on the basis of objective scientific information following screening under this Regulation, that the plan or project, individually or in combination with other plans or projects, will have a significant effect on a European site’.

‘The entire system seems to have failed Castleforbes ancient trees and its rare flora and fauna’, the group says.

The letter urges the Minister to require the Forestry Service to consult an inventory of private estate forestry compiled by the Forest Service in the 1970. ‘We asked the Forest Service if they had checked these woodlands against that inventory and were told because it was a confidential document it had probably not been digitalised and so was not available to those considering the licence’.

‘We have been informed’, Mr. Lowes said, ‘that the Forest Service plans to allow the operators to recommence work shorty when the bird nesting season and the squirrel breeding season is in full swing, - let alone the potential damage that could be done to this protected woodland under a General Felling License.

The group has asked the Minister to continue the suspension of work until the full extent of the felling that has taken place can be investigated, including an examination of the records of the timber received by the sawmills, and conditions put in place to protect the woodland and the rare animals its supports.


Contact: Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771  /087 2176316

Letter to the Minister:



30 MARCH 2016





Following on last night’s Irish National television programme ‘Prime Time Investigates’ on Donald Trump’s proposed wall at his Doonbeg sea side golf course, the environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] have launched an international campaign to stop the proposed construction of a 3 km hard coastal defence of quarried limestone rocks up to-5 meters above beach level and 15 metres wide. The group has also reported the organisation for holding and covering up an unauthorised dump and damaging the protected dunes.



The import of lorries of rock limestone to construct this coastal defence without permission was the subject of an enforcement order by Parks and Wildlife Service on 21 February, 2014. The developer claimed that ‘the asset and business is in a state of emergency’ due to the ‘catastrophic nature of the storm damage’, stating that the course is now ‘incredibly dangerous’ and threatening to hold the Department liable for ‘resulting damages and or loss to property, including lost income, business, and the livelihood of our many great employees’. A meeting with Parks and Wildlife and a subsequent discussion with the Minister [Jimmy Dennihan] ‘seems to have had the desired effect’, according to records released to FIE by the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht. The Trump Organisation agreed to apply for the current planning permission.



FIE Director Tony Lowes says that the proposed wall will prevent the natural dynamics of the remaining dune system from functioning. ‘From the nature conservation point of view, a rock armoured wall on a dune system is a lose lose proposition. The dunes lose because the embryonic dunes forming above the tideline are prevented from developing into mobile dunes by the construction of a wall between them and the rest of the dune system. At the same time, the wall will fossilise the high dunes so the natural nourishment of the beach by the preferential erosion of the dunes is prevented from reaching it, leading to a deepening of the beach which will be made worse by the loss of sand from cross and long shore drift created by the structure.’

The group says the 2014 legally binding Conservation Objective for Doonbeg (which are also included in the Draft Clare Development Plan), require the operators ‘to maintain the natural circulation of sediment and organic matter throughout the entire dune system, without any physical obstructions,’ concluding ‘there shall be no constructions permitted anywhere in the dune system’. If constructed, FIE says Ireland ‘would inevitable see prosecution by the European Commission, potentially costing the taxpayer – not Mr. Trump -  between €25,000 and €30,000 in fines.’


The group has also provided photographs to Clare County Council and the EPA of the illegal dump exposed by dune erosion and shown in Prime Time last night. ‘In the 10 days between Prime Time’s filming and our own site visit, it appears that the waste material has been covered up and the dune crest pulled down on top of it. This dump should have been reported to the authorities and investigated to determine what was the best approach to protect the environment from further damage. Instead, it was hastily hidden, causing more damage to the dune system.’


It has also reported littering along the beach caused by the failure of the golf course’s dune protection, including metal poles and concrete footings which it says should have been removed from the public beach. ‘The state of the dunes is shocking, littered with failed fences, their metal poles, chunks of concrete and rubbish. Mr. Trump has turned a great dune system into a slum.’



In a letter to National Parks and Wildlife Service, FIE alleges that drainage pipes highlighted by photographs require the Department’s consent as they could threaten the tiny snail, Vertigo angustior, which was at the heart of the settlement of the 2000 Judicial Review. Under a Management Plan, it has thrived and grown to a colony of more than 300m with unique annual records detailing vegetation and groundwater levels.

FIE also asks if the current widespread use of now rotting massive straw bales to try and stop the sand encroaching on the course are a source of nutrients which will impact on the vegetation and if they are in fact ‘worse for the dunes than even past poor farming practices’ as well as increasing the load on the dune crests, accelerating erosion.



The group had also published on its website the original letter 1995 from the Parks and Wildlife Service to Shannon Development, who were applying to draw down an EU £2.2m EU grant for the original golf course developers. The letter states that the NPWS would ‘strongly object’ to the development of a golf course on the intact areas of the dune system because ‘it would destroy the ecological and conservation value of the site’. ‘Only the degraded area at the eastern side of the system’, the letter concluded, ‘should be included in the proposed golf course, as the dune system was of ‘international conservation value’.

An affidavit of Dr. Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington of NUI Galway from the 2000 Judicial Review, stating that there was no justification for the reduction of the boundaries of the protected area which permitted the golf course to proceed.

‘The failure of the NPWS to maintain their position 20 years ago has led to the present impasse. If there is a lesson to be had from the history of Doonbeg, it is that the science will always get you in the end.’

CONTACT: Tony Lowes 353 (0) 27 74771 / 353 (0) 872176316


Campaign poster  |||   Site Report


Letter Reporting to CCC


Letter Reporting to National Parks and Wildlife Service


1995 Letter


Skeffington Affidavit


RTE Prime Time (See also ‘RTE player’)


YOU’VE BEEN TRUMPED – the shocking documentary on Trumps Scottish golf course development

‘You’ve been Trumped’




Brockovitch warning on Irish campaign on THM chemicals- do not be fooled by this dodge of responsibility and factual sharing of information by your government!’

Risk to Pregnant women highlighted

 Erin Brockovitch has responded to Ireland’s refusal to notify consumers directly of chemical exceedences in their water by telling her ‘Irish Cousins’ ‘not to be fooled by this dodge of responsibility and factual sharing of information by your government!’

Brockovitch, an American legal clerk and environmental activist, became a household name after a 1990 film ‘Erin Brockovtich’, starring Julia Roberts in the title role, detailed Brockovitch’s work in exposing Chromium 6 in groundwater from a cooling tower system on a gas pipeline in California. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards.

The film is to be screened by TV3 tomorrow at 9PM.

Her warning comes after a report in the Irish media detailed the failure of the Irish environmental group, Friends of the Irish Environment, to have the European Commission require Ireland to inform consumer of these chemical exceedances on their water bills.

The Irish authorities admitted to the Commission that 412,000 consumers were receiving water over the level permitted by the EU and the World Health Organization but said that the Health Service Executive had ruled that as there was no ‘immediate danger’ to consumers they were not required to inform them directly.

Trihalomethanes are toxic compounds, including chloroform, which occur in drinking water as a result of reaction between organic materials, such as peaty soil, when chlorine is added as a disinfectant. Long-term exposure to THMs include an increased risk of certain cancers, such as bladder and colon; reproductive problems such as miscarriages, birth defects, and low birth rates; and damage to the heart, lungs, liver, kidney, and central nervous system.

On her recent Facebook Post, Brockovitch highlighted the dangers of THMs causing miscarriages as well as cancer. She highlighted specific danger to pregnant women, writing ‘Trihalomethanes are far more dangerous to pregnant women. Studies have demonstrated woman exposed to Drinking Water over 80 micrograms/Litre of trihalomethanes are exposed to a greater risk for miscarriage in the first trimester and low birth weight in the second and third trimester... beware of very real "short term" exposure!’

Brockovitch linked her comments to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health. This study examined the impact of THMs on pregnant women exposed to THM laden water based on a cross sectional analysis of 56,513 singleton infants born to residents of Massachusetts during 1990.

The Results showed that infants exposure to water containing over 80 microgramns/Litre compared to those exposed to water of less than 60 micro g/litre in the first trimester of pregnancy was associated with a 32 g reduction in birth weight. It also detailed ‘slight increases in gestational duration associated with TTHM concentrations’.

According to the study, for each further 20 micro g/l increase in THM, the estimated reduction in birth was 2.8 g for pregnancy average exposure. The EU permitted level are 100 micrograms/Litre, 20% higher than the level used in the Harvard study. Irish supplies quoted in the FIE complaint to the Commission included readings of up to 240 micrograms/litre.

FIE registered a complaint over the failure to inform Irish consumer of THM exceedances in 2012 but after a long series of meeting and correspondence, the Commission accepted accepted the Irish authorities claim that consumers could find out if their water supplies exceeded the permitted level through a new interactive website set up during the investigation and through a Remedial Action List on the EPA website.

Tony Lowes, a Director of FIE, said that this was ‘simply not true. The interactive website shows only very limited results for a water supply with many results ‘pending’ for over a year. In fact these readings may not coincide with readings which have established the previous vulnerability of a supply to THM exceedances’.

‘Further, the Remedial Action List only identifies THMs in the water supply for approximately 270,000 out of the 412,000 consumers the State says is affected, leaving 140,000 consumers unable to see if their supplies are affected -  even if they have internet access and skills.

‘Consumers have the right to know on their bill if their water contains THMs over the recommended limit,’ Mr. Lowes said. He pointed out that ‘THMs are not only absorbed through drinking THM laden water, but as they are volatile they can be absorbed through prolonged showering or steamy conditions in bathrooms or kitchens. They are easily removed with a relatively inexpensive charcoal filter – but consumers cannot do so unless they know their water is affected.’

An EPA sponsored conference on trihalomethanes has been announced for 16 June, 2016. The conference organisers point out that Ireland has the highest reported non-compliance for THM exceedances across the 27 EU Member States.

Comment and verification: Tony Lowes 027 74771 /  087 2176316


Brockovitch comments


Harvard Study: ‘Effect of trihalomethane exposure on fetal development.’


Natural Organic Matter & Trihalomethanes, National Technical Workshop 2016



FIE Press Release on Commission decision


Commission letter refusing to take action


EU Ombudsman letter




9 MARCH, 2016


The boil water notice issued last weekend to almost 5,000 consumers in County Galway by Irish Water has created an additional health risk, according to the environmental lobby group Friends of the Irish Environment.

The group has been campaigning to have consumers informed directly of exceedances of the WHO/EU permitted level of chemicals called trihalomethanes [THMs] in their water supplies.

THMs are a group of more than 60 chemicals, including the carcinogenic chloroform, created as a disinfectant by-product in drinking water as a result of reaction between organic materials, such as peaty soil, and chlorine. 412,000 Irish Water customers out of a customer base of 1.5 million – more than a million actual consumers –  in 79 water supply zones had levels of THMs above the limit, according to a December 11, 2015 letter from the Commission to FIE about a complaint the group has lodged.

While the Health Service Executive admits that ‘studies of THMs in drinking water show that there may be associations with human cancer’, they have refused to include the information on consumers bills or notify them directly, claiming studies are ‘weak’ and ‘inconsistent’.

Irish Water says that the boil water notice has been put in place for the Carraroe Water Supply due to the detection of cryptosporidium in the water supply which serves 4,700 people. Cryptosporidium is not affected by chlorination. FIE says records on Irish Water’s own site show that 4 out of the 5 tests undertaken on the Carraroe water scheme in 2014 and 2015 were over the WHO/EU limit for THMs, with two tests showing levels 1/3 above the permitted 100 micrograms per litre.

In a statement issued this morning, Friends of the Irish Environment highlight research published in the USA ‘Environmental Health perspectives’ in 2005 by government and academic researchers. The abstract says the study ‘adds to previous evidence that dermal absorption and inhalation of THMs associated with everyday tap water use can result in significantly higher blood THM concentrations than simply drinking the water [EHP 113:863–870]’. It recorded ‘THM blood concentrations rising 5- to 15-fold as a result of showering in subjects.’ The study states it ‘also provide[s] evidence that other THM exposure scenarios, such as washing dishes by hand and being exposed to a cohabitant’s shower steam, may also be important’.

The FIE statement continues: ‘It is universally accepted that THMs are volatile chemicals that present a specific and particular danger through inhalation. Yet this is exactly what Irish Water has instructed consumers to do by bringing the water to a ‘vigorous, rolling boil’.

‘We are not suggesting that Irish Water stop chlorinating the water before the infrastructure is rationalised, but it borders on the criminal to instruct consumers to boil the water without informing them of the necessary precautions, including ensuring adequate ventilation to protect themselves and their family from inhaling the dangerous chemicals released from boiling THM laden water.’

‘While Ireland informed the EU that all supplies exceeding the THM levels are placed on the Environmental Protection Agency Remedial Action List to inform the public, the Carraroe Public Water supply is not listed for THM exceedances on this list’.

‘An EPA Direction issued to Irish Water required completion of works including filtration and UV to address cryptosporidium in this supply by 30/11/15’, Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment added.



Boil Water Notice

Environmental Health perspectives study

EPA Remedial Action List


Back Story


Contact: Tony Lowes: 353 (0)87 2176316  /  353 (0)27 74771 /



17 FEBRUARY 2016





A campaign in Europe to have Irish Water customers informed of toxic chemicals exceeding the World Health Organisation and European Union safety standards has failed, according to Friends of the Irish Environment.


The environmental lobby group, which specialises in the enforcement of European environmental legislation, has been told by the European Ombudsman that she cannot require the European Commission to force Irish Water to inform consumers on their bill that the water they receive contains levels of trihalomethanes above the EU and WHO permitted levels.


Trihalomethanes are toxic compounds, including chloroform, which occur in drinking water as a result of reaction between organic materials, such as peaty soil, when chlorine is added as a disinfectant. Long-term exposure to THMs include an increased risk of certain cancers, such as bladder and colon; reproductive problems such as miscarriages, birth defects, and low birth rates; and damage to the heart, lungs, liver, kidney, and central nervous system.


FIE says that ‘trihalomethanes are volatile chemicals that are easily removed by simple carbon filters if the consumer knows that his water contains them. Because they are volatile’, the statement continues, ‘there are particularly dangerous in enclosed areas with poor ventilation, through prolonged showering, bathing, ingestion, or in Jacuzzis, with pregnant women advised in particular to avoid exposure.’


During an investigation of the complaint by FIE the Irish authorities informed the Commission that on the basis of their last review, ‘around 412,000 persons are possibly affected by THM exceedances in 79 public water supply zones’.


While they agreed that ‘there is a need to substantially improve consumer communications in relation to THMs’, they have consistently refused to inform consumers on their bills when the level of trihalomethanes exceeds the WHO and EU recommended levels, instead arguing that all Irish Water customers can find out if their water supplies exceed the limit through their website, which ‘they are informed of through Irish Water billing which reaches over 1.5 million domestic premises’.


FIE Director Tony Lowes said that ‘the Irish Water website only gives consumers a snapshot of the most recent water quality results for their supply and does not include previous readings which may have shown high levels of the toxic chemicals requiring filtration upgrades. Thus, a resident of Enniskerry seeking water quality results will not see that his water is contaminated with these toxic chemicals through the Irish Water site, although the Enniskerry public supply is listed on the EPA Remedial Action List as needing an upgrade to filter trihalomethanes.

While Irish Water suggests that consumers can find further information on the EPA website’s ‘Remedial Action List’, in fact this list omits supplies covering almost 150,000 of the 412,000 consumers affected.


Emily O’Reilly, European Ombudsman, wrote to the organisation that ‘I appreciate that not all customers of the Irish water service (ʺIrish Waterʺ) will be satisfied with the approach to information provision proposed by the Irish authorities. Some customers may prefer to be informed directly rather than having to consult a website. And of course there will be customers for whom consulting a website proves either difficult or not possible.’


Ms O’Reilly said that case law prevented her from requiring the Commission to take legal proceedings against Ireland, suggested the organisation approach the Irish Energy Regulator, who is in charge of complaints against Irish water. The group is also taking legal advice about consumer rights.


Mr Lowes said ‘The core of this problem is land use policies that are allowing the draining of peat soils for forestry, farming, and peat extraction to contaminate drinking water supplies – a problem that is becoming worse as intense rainfall events increase.’




Commission letter refusing to take action


EU Ombudsman letter



Contact: Tony Lowes 027 74771 /  087 2176316

Sample Consumers affected (while we have not included all the supplies on the remedial action list, it omits almost 150,000 consumers. Ask Irish water why.)

Wicklow Wicklow Regional Public Supply 12,000, Enniskerry Public Supply 2,839, Wicklow Avoca / Ballinclash Public Supply1,506

Kerry Lisarboola  20,967, Ballymacadam  3,629

Meath East Meath 51,932

Mayo Lough Mask 36,939, Ballina 15,000, Kiltimagh  1,692

Cork Drimoleague 825; Kealkill 795; Schull  1,762

Donegal Cashilard  400, Fintown  352. Greencastle  1,000 Pettigo  510, Portnoo-Narin  941,

Rathmullen 270

Galway Ballinasloe 10,270, Portumna 2,719

Kilkenny City 17,083, Kilkenny Inistioge 1,452

Leitrim South Leitrim Regional  16,566

Longford GRANARD  1,915, LONGFORD CENTRAL 8,717

Monaghan Lough Egish 8,497

Sligo Lough Gill Regional Water Supply  13,668, South Sligo Regional Water Supply 1,403

Waterford Lismore 2,157, Ring/Helvick 1,104,  Tallow  1,197

Roscommon North Roscommon Regional Water Supply Scheme  6,762



See the worrying trends identified in Scotland in 2013 and questions for Ireland:

‘The lack of an improvement in THM compliance is extremely disappointing, especially in light of the additional efforts made by Scottish Water to achieve improvements in this respect. A number of treatment works with THM issues, such as Gairloch, Achmore and Shieldaig, were replaced during 2012 making the lack of progress all the more surprising.

Analysis of the data by DWQR shows that the pattern of THM failures in 2012 changed compared with previous years. Eighteen of the 29 supplies recording failures in 2012 did not fail in 2011 - a particularly concerning trend. Now, many failures are occurring where the treatment processes present at the site should, in theory at least, be able to treat the water to a standard needed to avoid THM formation.

Seven out of the 29 failing supplies had membrane treatment. None of these supplies should be producing water that fails the THM standard, and these failures suggest that the integrity of the nanofiltration membranes has been breached. To put this another way, Scottish Water has failed to monitor and replace membrane modules before they deteriorate to an extent that they allow organic material to pass through. Scottish Water acknowledges this and has implemented processes to ensure timely intervention takes place.

One contributory factor at some sites may be a change in the quality of raw water, meaning that a once adequate treatment process is now unable to cope. The extent of this issue has yet to be fully quantified, but Scottish Water must gain an intimate understanding of the quality of water it has to treat and design, build and optimise treatment processes accordingly.’

See for example the Nova Scotia warnings: