Firm responds to Kilroot coal dust ‘health’ queries

Coal dust deposits at an Eden property.  INCT 43-721-CON
Coal dust deposits at an Eden property. INCT 43-721-CON

A Carrick-based firm has responded to concerns from local residents over the potential health hazards of airborne coal dust.

Last week, the Times reported that AES UK and Ireland, which operates a plant at Kilroot Power Station, had carried out cleaning at two homes in the Eden area where a build-up of dust had been reported.

Despite initial concerns that the substance was soot or ash, an AES spokesperson confirmed that it in fact came from an exposed coal pile.

But with further reports of homes in the wider Carrick area being affected, a number of householders queried the potential impact of the dust on public health.

Beltoy Court resident Ena Sproule said her property had been covered with the coal deposits earlier this year. “We’re worried about breathing this dust in,” she added.

Mark McCormack, who has lived in the Eden area for 14 years added: “I’ve never seen it as bad as it was last week.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for AES indicated that the firm’s operations “comply with updated and existing environmental regulations and safety requirements”.

“We continue to work with the Environmental Agency and the council to put in place additional concrete measures to prevent fly-off,” the spokesperson added.

“Most of the available health information is based on significant occupational exposure over many years, such as that experienced by coal miners.

“The low levels of coal dust in this isolated incident are far below occupational exposure levels.

“It is extremely unusual for coal dust to travel beyond the site boundary, even at the low levels experienced by our neighbours as a result of an unusual combination of a strong south-easterly wind, an extended dry period and increased stocking levels.

“We apologise for the inconvenience caused and continue to work with local residents to clean affected property.”

Meanwhile, DUP representatives, Councillor Cheryl Johnston and David Hilditch MLA met with staff from AES last week over the issue.

Encouraging affected residents to get in touch with the firm, Cllr Johnston said: “It’s something the company are quite keen to address.”

AES can be reached at Kilroot Power Station on 028 9335 6200.