Smoke billows from a tall industrial chimney overlooking the communities of Strathfoyle and Maydown. “If you think that’s bad, wait until they build the rubbish incinerator here,” warns local youth worker Eamon O’Donnell.
Eamon typifies the feelings of local people in both Strathfoyle and Maydown over the announcement that an incinerator capable of burning up to 120 tonnes of household rubbish will be located near both communities.
“We feel completely abandoned out here,” said Eamon angrily. “We have approached many local politicians about the decision to build the incinerator but out of over 40 we contacted only one got back to us - enough is enough and it’s just not on anymore.”
Maydown and Strathfoyle have a combined population of approximately 5,000 people and as a sign of their determination to halt the construction of the incinerator, both communities have joined forces.
Martin McCartney is the chairman of Maydown Community Association and claims that despite being told residents would be kept informed of the plan to build the incinerator he hasn’t “heard a word” in over a year and a half.
“We first heard of the plan to build an incinerator out here about two years ago but we were told that all of the residents who will live in the vicinity of it would be kept up-to-date with how things were going - that was over 18 months ago and since then we haven’t heard a word.”
Eamon weighed in behind Martin by claiming those planning the incinerator did not hold a public meeting about the proposal and said if politicians won’t listen to what the local community is saying the residents will step up their campaign of action.
“Yet again, the people of Strathfoyle and Maydown feel dumped upon. No one is listening to us. For decades this community has been seen as a dumping ground but enough is enough.
“Earlier this year statistics revealed that two of the most industrialised areas in Derry, Strathfoyle and Culmore, had the highest rates of cancer diagnosis in the city between 2007 and 2009.
“During that time 108 people from the Enagh Ward were diagnosed with cancer whilst 28 people died of cancer from the same area between 2008 and 2010.
“Culmore is just the other side of the river from Strathfoyle and 139 people were diagnosed with cancer, of which 29 died between 2008 and 2010.
“As a community worker I make no apologies for being sceptical when it comes to linking a heavily industrialised area and high cancer rates.
“We have been calling for an inquiry into the possible links between the two for quite sometime now - I think it’s a perfectly reasonable request and if this was happening in any other community I’d expect community workers there would be asking the exact same questions. We are not doing this because we enjoy protesting, we are doing it because we care about our communities.”
Paul Hughes is a peer support worker for Enagh Youth Forum. Paul recollected the sense of community spirit experienced in the early ‘90s when more than 6,000 people marched over plans to build a toxic waste incinerator in the Maydown area.
“From what we know, the landscaping for the incinerator will begin as early as March of this year.
“The local people of Strathfoyle and Maydown do not want this to happen but no one is listening to us. We need to recapture the momentum that this area witnessed in the early ‘90s when 6,000 people helped to stop the construction of a toxic waste incinerator in the area.”
Paul works with the young people of Strathfoyle on a daily basis. He’s a familiar face in the area and explained that the young people area just as determined as everyone else to put a stop to the construction of the facility.
“We are educating the young people on why it is we want to oppose the building of the incinerator because the last thing we want is people protesting for the sake of it. Our plan is to educate, agitate and organise.
“The young people are every bit as passionate as the older people in the community. The last thing they want is to grow up in an area that’s is even more industrialised.
“Like Eamon said, all we want is for appropriate authorities to conduct a survey into the possible links between high levels of industry and illnesses such as cancer. We are only asking questions that any right minded human being would ask. How would anyone reading this article like it if there was a rubbish incinerator on their doorstep? I don’t think too many of them would be best pleased, if I am honest.”
With construction work of the incinerator due to start soon both the Maydown and Strathfoyle communities will host fundraising events in order to employ the help and advice of a environmental lawyer.
“We have been in contact with a few organisations like Friends of the Earth and they have put us in touch with an environmental lawyer. Like everything these days, they don’t come cheap and we are a community with very little money to spare, so the plan is to do as much fundraising as we can, employ a lawyer and hopefully we will have a better idea of where we are with things,” said Paul.
Meanwhile, Enagh Youth Forum will do their bit for the environment next weekend when they aim to plant 400 new trees in the area and there are also plans to clean up the area in and around Enagh Lough.
“We are asking anyone who can volunteer a few hours of their time next Friday or Saturday to come along and ‘do one thing’ to help protect and enhance their local environment,” said Paul.
The tree planting was made possible through Faughan Valley Landscape Partnerships free tree pack scheme with Woodland Trust. The clean up is part of a Loughs Agency’s Adopt-a-Stream initiative where groups are encouraged to look after waterways close to them. The Loughs Agency supplies all equipment needed and Derry City Council supports the group in undertaking the task.
For further information on the Faughan Valley Landscape Partnership please contact Annie Mullan, Community Engagement Officer. Tel: 028 7133 7498, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.faughanvalley.com