Lough Oughter and Inch Island. Photo: Hu O'Reilly

Cavan lake impacted by poultry pollution

A new report has highlighted concerns over the impact poultry farming is having on the Lough Oughter complex.

The document, commissioned by Monaghan County Council, shows a number of conservation sites locally are at risk from ammonia and nitrogen emissions.

The local authority hired Consultants Fehily Timoney to look at the economic and environmental impact the sector has on the county. The report shows poultry production is most concentrated in Cavan, Monaghan, Limerick and Cork, where it “has become a firmly established and highly efficient industry at all levels”.

A separate report from the EPA published in June highlighted a number of Natura 2000 sites in Cavan and Monaghan are at risk from emissions of ammonia and nitrogen, “with critical loadings of ammonia and nitrogen already being exceeded”.

Natura 2000 sites are a European network of important ecological areas, including Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas. Three sites, the Lough Oughter complex, Kilrooskey Lough outside Clones and the Sliabh Beagh area of north Monaghan are already exceeding allowances for ammonia and nitrogen.

The EPA issued guidance on dealing with licence applications for poultry farms, including a requirement for Natural Impact Assessments to be carried out in certain areas.

The Fehily Timoney report published this month showed a noted increase in the number of applications for poultry units and highlighted a number of concerns. An increase in traffic numbers and noise pollution were raised as was a potential increase in pollution, particularly from ammonia contained in bird waste.

The potential impact of ammonia is not limited to the area immediately surrounding a poultry farm. It can easily spread through the air and fall as nitrogen, which in turn can impact on biodiversity.

The report highlighted that the waste is primarily sent to other parts of the country, due to the high number of water bodies in this region. But it called on the industry to research alternative methods of disposing of the waste.

The report was discussed at the September meeting of Monaghan County Council and drew widespread criticism from councillors. However, they agreed to set up a taskforce in the county to work with farmers to look at the environmental impact of the sector.

A motion passed at the meeting also calls for a Department of Agriculture representative to be placed on the taskforce.

The IFA President Tim Cullinan has said there needs to be a “balance” found.

He’s called for poultry businesses in the region to be protected, saying the rearing of birds is tightly “controlled”.