Thursday 20 June 2019

Up to a million litres of oil 'leaked from underground ESB cables'

Pollution concern: A swan on the Grand Canal in Dublin
Pollution concern: A swan on the Grand Canal in Dublin
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is investigating claims that up to one million litres of oil leaked from ESB underground cables over the last 20 years.

The allegation is one of several environmental and safety hazard issues raised by a former employer in a protected disclosure.

Many of the cables were installed in the 1950s and are believed to have reached their expected end of life.

The revelations were made by 'RTÉ Investigates' last night and detail confidential ESB records of oil leaks going back over the past two decades.

The leaking of up to one million litres of oil from heavy duty electrical cables under the streets of Dublin is now the subject of an EPA investigation launched just 10 days ago.

The biggest concern highlighted by whistleblower Séamus O'Loughlin was outlined in his very first protected disclosure, which documents the leaking of vast quantities of insulating oil from the national grid which continues to this day.

Mr O'Loughlin told the programme: "I got the report on the fluid filled cables, I got the total leakage, up to a million litres in a 20-year period. I just couldn't compute it to be honest. I was astounded."

The EPA said that local authorities are the agencies to which water pollution incidents must be reported. When 'RTÉ Investigates' asked Dublin City Council about this a spokesperson said that apart from two incidents in 2009 and 2011, the City Council was not informed about leaks.

An internal ESB report from 2014, which is marked confidential, states: "Leaks could present a very high environmental impact, given the proximity to the Grand Canal."

The ESB report goes on to say that the cable oil is "not considered compatible with watercourses and the associated eco systems, in rivers and canals and the sea."

On January 18, the whistleblower formally lodged a number of protected disclosures with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The disclosures are still being examined by the department.

Irish Independent

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