A Stop Islandmagee Energy campaigner has warned that siting gas storage caverns under Larne Lough has the potential to “change our whole coastline”.
Professional diver Peter Christian, a spokesperson for opponents of the scheme, has claimed that the controversial proposal, which has not yet been granted a licence by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), could affect the coast from North Antrim to County Down.
He is urging DAERA to carry out an independent study before making a decision on an application by Islandmagee Energy, a subsidiary of Infrstrata. The proposal would involve drilling a mile underneath Larne Lough which has been designated by DAERA as an Area of Special Scientific Interest.
Mr. Christian stated that he has completed hundreds of dives at the proposed point of discharge on the other side of the island.
He alleged that a “kill zone” may result that could be “disastrous” for local marine life which inhabit the sea off Brown’s Bay and Portmuck in Islandmagee.
“At that point, the tide can go in one of two ways. The tide is very often ineffectual. Very possibly, instead of this brine being washed out to deeper water, it may possibly go into eddys and kill marine life. As a result, our local ecosystem could collapse and could have an effect on the north coast and County Down,” he claimed.
He also expressed fears that the dispersal of large quantities of brine into this stretch of sea water could be detrimental to porpoises and puffins, two protected species as well as whales, sand eels, scallops and fish such as dogfish and catfish which inhabit the waters as well as purple starfish and Ocean Quahog, one of the oldest living species of mollusc, when millions of tonnes of rock salt are dissolved at high pressure.
In response,Islandmagee Energy has stated that the potential of taking brine discharge further into the Irish Sea has been “investigated fully and it was deemed to cause substantially more environmental impact”.
A spokesperson said: “Islandmagee Energy Ltd has received no scientific evidence that gives any credibility to the unfounded statements that have been in circulation allegedly claiming that adverse changes will occur to the coastline from the North Antrim coast to County Down as a result of the development.
“The studies conducted by environmental scientists show that the discharge will have minimum impact to resident species and the environment.
“Being located adjacent to existing industrial operations, the gas storage facility will have no detrimental effects on tourism.”