Tuesday, 21 February 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
170. Mr. Bree asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the results of the monitoring and tests carried out on animals grazing in mountainous areas and, in particular the Ox mountains in County Sligo, giving the levels of nuclide contamination attributable to Chernobyl. [3703/95]
171. Mr. Bree asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if areas of significant or high levels of nuclide contamination have been identified in plants, vegetation and soils systems in certain mountains; and the figures, if any, there are relating to certain parts of County Sligo. [3704/95]
Following the accident at Chernobyl in April 1986, deposition of radio-nuclides took place on Irish soils. While many of these were of relatively small concentrations and also had a short halflife, two radioisotopes of caesium, namely caesium-137 and caesium-134 were of longer term significance. As a result of extensive surveys carried out on a nationwide basis by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) on sheep grazing on upland soils, a limited number of upland peaty areas have been identified as having elevated levels of radionuclide contamination, including parts of the Ox mountains of County Sligo.
Surveys carried out by the RPII on soil on the upper slopes of the Ox Mountains in 1989 gave combined levels of caesium 137 and caesium 134 of 564 Bq/kg of dry soil in the top 0-5 cm of soil. At the 5-10 cm level in the soil the figure for the combined level was 153 Bq/kg of dry soil. Work was carried out by the RPII in 1990 on vegetation in Lough Easkey (Grid: G450230). The  combined level of caesium 137 and caesium 134 found in samples of heather (calluna vulgaris) was 1230 Bq/kg dry matter.
Surveys carried out by the RPII in 1994 based on local slaughter houses in County Sligo showed that over 98 per cent of sheep had radiocaesium levels less than 100 Bq/kg, with the highest recorded level being 174 Bq/kg. These levels are not significant from a health point of view. Furthermore, sheepmeat samples collected from butchers shops by the North-Western Health Board showed radiocaesium activity less than ten Bq/kg.
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