The annual River Fergus clean-up took place last week in Ennis, yielding a large rubbish profile from one of the town’s Special Areas of Conservation (SAC).
The clean-up is a collaborative approach between Ennis Sub-Aqua Club, Ennis Tidy Towns and Clare Civil Defence, organised through Clare County Council. As well as being an SAC, the River Fergus, which begins at Lough Fergus in North Clare and flows into the Shannon Estuary is a Special Protected Area (SPA), which designates legal protection of natural habitats, flora and fauna.
Clare County Council Executive Engineer Maria Carey stated that the River Fergus “provides an important habitat for nature, plants and animals.” It is home to several species of migratory birds, swans, geese, brown trout, salmon, mackerel and otters.
“The cleaner the river is the better the chance there is that we will meet the standards under the Water Framework Directive. A clean river is also a nice amenity for the town. It provides recreational activities and can lead to an increase in tourism,” she stated.
Members of the sub-aqua club, a scuba diving club that dives off the county’s coast, entered the river at the rear of the Post Office field. Brandishing wet suits and personal protective equipment (PPE) they waded the low tide and were assisted by the Civil Defence along the shoreline, who removed the bags of rubbish directly into council trucks bound for Inagh Central Waste Management Facility.
Ennis Sub-Aqua Club Member Bridget Ginnity, who took part in the clean-up, stated: “The river is just such a lovely part of Ennis, flowing through it. Looking over the bridges, down by the riverbanks, its lovely that its a clean area to look on. You have really poor visibility in the river and you can’t really see where you are walking. When you are reaching in, you don’t have good visibility and there is a danger of getting cut with sharp objects. We have the visual impact but the impact on the wildlife is adverse. It simply can’t be good for the fish, birds and the wildlife to have all that rubbish”.
Maria informed that there was a wide rubbish profile present in the Fergus that flows through the centre of the town. Metal fencing, timber, cans, bottles, bicycles, road signs, traffic cones were all removed from parts of the river along urban settings. More rural sections of the river that forms part of the Shannon Basin are less subject to intensive pollution, she added.
Several awareness campaigns are in operation as educational preventative measures. These are the County Council’s Greener Clare and social media channels. The national MyWaste.ie campaign, waste enforcement teams, Clare County 2018 Waste Management Byelaws as well as the presence of community wardens patrolling the riverbanks, who act as authorised officers under the waste management act 1996 and can issue on the spot litter fines of €150. A breach of the byelaws presented to local businesses that instruct on proper waste management can also lead to a fine of €75.
On the back of the success of the clean-up Maria added that there is “scope for more than one clean-up during the year, dependent on the river levels.”