Firm takes action as Carrick homes struck by ‘coal dust’

Coal dust deposits were cleaned from the window of a house in the Eden area.  INCT 42-722-CON
Coal dust deposits were cleaned from the window of a house in the Eden area. INCT 42-722-CON

A Carrickfergus-based firm has outlined its efforts to engage with residents in Eden whose homes were struck by airborne coal dust.

AES UK and Ireland, which operates Kilroot Power Station, was responding to complaints after a black substance appeared on the exterior of several properties in the area.

One householder raised concerns with the local DUP constituency office, believing the substance to be soot from the nearby plant.

“On September 28, [the resident] had new blinds installed and windows washed; on the 29th, they went outside and their windows were covered in black soot,” said DUP councillor Cheryl Johnston.

“This has been an on going problem throughout the years, but on this occasion it was particularly bad and it is extremely concerning what affect this could have on the health of residents in the area.”

Responding to the claims, a spokesperson for AES confirmed that the substance was not soot, but coal dust. “This has been picked up from our coal pile - the fuel waiting to be used in the plant - and blown towards Eden through an unusual combination of a strong south-easterly wind, an extended dry period and increased stocking levels.

“This is a different material from coal ash, commonly referred to as soot, and it has not been burned.

“AES was alerted by a resident in the lower Beltoy area of coal dust on their property. Within an hour AES people met with the resident to assess the situation and then proceeded to clean their window sills and driveway.

“While addressing the issue, we were notified by another neighbour and cleaned their conservatory and car in the same manner.

“We would appreciate the chance to speak with any affected resident with whom we have not already engaged. We understand that the dust is a nuisance.”

Efforts are being made to control the situation, the firm added, including daily monitoring of the coal pile, as well as the five-day weather forecast to prepare upcoming dust suppression requirements.

In response to the unusual conditions, the firm said it had taken the “increased precaution of dampening the coal pile to inhibit dust fly off”.

Tim McCullough, Operations Director for AES UK & Ireland added: “We apologise to our neighbours for this inconvenience and will continue to work with any affected residents to clean the coal dust from their property.”

Meanwhile, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council indicated it is “continuing to monitor” the situation after receiving two complaints from householders in Eden last week.

“These complaints were brought to the attention of AES who took action to resolve the situation for the home owners,” a spokesperson said.