I have recently been in contact with a number of people who have expressed concerns about pollution in the Royal and Grand Canals. I contacted the Minister responsible about this and I attached her response below. I will continue to follow up the issue and others related to the Canals, such as the proposed Royal Canal Urban Greenway.
Waterways Ireland is responsible for maintaining the ecological integrity of the Royal and Grand Canals. Waterways Ireland has assured me that this responsibility is taken very seriously and environmental monitoring of these canals has been carried out for over twenty five years to ensure their protection as natural heritage corridors and as high quality public amenities.
As a result of recent enquiries from RTE concerning alleged contamination along the Grand and Royal Canals, Waterways Ireland conducted an internal review of historic records. This review and the Body’s on-going operational and monitoring protocols have not detected any contamination of significance excluding a single, known incident which occurred in the period 2012-2014.
Waterways Ireland advised RTE of this known incident which involved the leakage of cable oil from ESB Networks cabling. Subsequently following further claims from RTE of alleged repeated contamination, Waterways Ireland sought clarification and assurance from ESB Networks regarding the alleged leaks onto the Body’s property. This enquiry is on-going and I am unable to add any further information at this time.
I can confirm that Waterways Ireland made my Department verbally aware at its 29 May 2019 Monitoring Committee Meeting of the planned RTE Investigates programme scheduled for broadcast on 3 June 2019. Waterways Ireland updated the Sponsor Departments on 3 June 2019 in advance of the broadcasting of the RTE programme. This Department remains in communication with Waterways Ireland on the matter.
In relation to your question referring to protecting the wildlife corridors that exist along the canals, Waterways Ireland places a strong emphasis on stakeholder communication with regards to all aspects of waterways’ heritage. As part of the Waterways Ireland Heritage Plan 2016-2020 there was detailed and extensive consultation across a wide range of stakeholder groups including Non-Governmental Organisations, interested individuals and State Agencies. For any towpath proposal, Waterways Ireland either commissions, or insists on third parties undertaking detailed ecological impact assessments of the canals where recreational paths are proposed to assess impacts on natural heritage.
Furthermore, a detailed Cumulative Impact Assessment is required to assess any proposed or anticipated towpath projects to assess potential cumulative impacts. This has been agreed in consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service of this Department.