The brine discharge pipe from Gaelectric’s proposed Compressed Air Energy Storage plant in Islandmagee could endanger divers, says a diving centre owner.
The man, who does not wish to be named but who owns a boat tour and sub aqua centre in Islandmagee, says he fears the impact of the proposed development on his business and on the safety of divers.
“If a diver drops into the water and is propelled upwards by the force of the brine dispersal pipe they could get decompression sickness, so it would be irresponsible for us to put divers in that area,” he stated.
“Divers have already told us they won’t be coming here if this happens. The salt water would also corrode their equipment.”
Decompression sickness, also known as “the bends”, can lead to serious side effects including musculoskeletal pain and, at its worst, neurological damage.
The CAES project entails the creation of underground salt caverns to store energy in the form of compressed air, which would then be released to generate electricity when demand is high.
Environmentalists have raised concerns over the impact of pumping brine, the plant’s waste by-product, on marine life.
Campaign group Stop Gaelectric is creating a “fighting fund” to object to Gaelectric’s scheme, and is organising boat tours on October 30 to pay for expert consultants to review the CAES plans.
“These trips will raise money and show people what’s at risk,” Lisa said.
“Gaelectric has said mobile species will move out of the way of the brine discharge flow, but we don’t want the harbour porpoises and seals to move out of this area. We want to see them on our coastline.”
Lisa said that if the planning application is passed the fighting fund will be used to mount a legal challenge.
A Gaelectric spokesperson said that due to the application being under consideration by planners they “are not in a position to comment in detail on the matters raised”, but added that “the potential impacts from the discharge of brine into the marine environment have been considered in the Environmental Statement for the project.”