A TOXIC leak from a ship at Warrenpoint harbour saw north Louth residents put on alert last week.
Thousands of people living in the vicinity of Carlingford Lough were told to stay inside and keep their windows and doors closed amid concerns that a plume of toxic gas had escaped across the Lough
Residents of Carlingford and Omeath were among those on both sides of the border issued with the warning.
The alarm was raised at Warrenpoint Docks last Wednesday morning after toxic gas, normally used in pest control, escaped from a ship docked at the harbour.
Nine people were reported to have been taken to Daisy Hill Hospital, requiring treatment, after the gas, aluminium phosphide, leaked from the vessel. The gas is a pesticide used to kill moles and rodents.
After the leak, it had been feared the gas could spread across the lough to Carlingford and Omeath. However, winds slackened and the gas plume did not cross the border.
A number of homes in the Warrenpoint area were evacuated after the incident was reported.
With the close vicinity of the northern harbour to Louth shores, a spokesman for Louth County Council explained that the incident saw a response from the local authority.
' The crew of a ship docked at Warrenpoint were using a pesticide substance that is normal practice on vessels carrying grain. It is understood that a small amount of the material got wet and the chemical reaction resulted in the generation of a small toxic plume which affected a number of crew and port staff.
' The PSNI and NI Fire Service responded. PSNI officers contacted Gardaí in Omeath and advised of a potential risk – Gardaí went door-to-door in Omeath and advised locals to remain indoors and close the windows.'
He added that Louth County Fire Service responded to Omeath as a precaution and contact was established with the NI Fire service as operational protocols dictate.
'As the extent of the incident was not clear the County Manager directed that the Local Authority element of the Major Emergency Crisis Management Team assemble as a precaution to ensure all measures that were necessary were taken.
He pointed out that the Major Emergency Plan was not activated.
'Following confirmation from the NI Fire Service Haz- Chem Officer that the incident involved a small amount of material and that the control zone only extended to 50 metres from the ship – there was no danger to residents in the Omeath or surrounding area – the County Manager Mrs. Joan Martin directed that the Crisis team stand down. First Service staff also returned to station at that time.'