Toxic Spill: Woman claims works damaging her home

Toxic Chemicals

18 September 2021

A woman who claims she had to abandon her Dublin 4 home due to a toxic chemical spill at a neighbour’s property has claimed before the High Court that repair works are causing further damage to her house.

Last year Sharon Keane, and her two children claims she had to move out of their family home at 22 Grand Canal Street, Dublin 4 after a leak occurred and a hazardous chemical called ‘xylene‘ that was being stored on the property of her neighbours Thomas and Bronwyn Dunne contaminated her property.

At the High Court on Friday Ms Keane secured a temporary injunction from Mr Justice Max Barrett preventing building, remedial and construction works being carried out of the Dunnes’ property, at 20 Grand Canal Street.

The works are to cease pending an inspection and survey of the property by Ms Keane’s consulting engineers as to the extent of the excavations being carried by the defendants and their contractors, the court ordered.

The order was sought due to Ms Keane’s concerns that the works currently being conducted on the Dunne’s property is causing further damage to the plaintiff’s home.

Her counsel Gary McCarthy SC, instructed by Solicitors, said the strong fumes and odour that severely affected their health from an alleged xylene spill in September 2020 resulted in Ms Keane and her children having to leave their home.

Her home adjoins the Dunne’s property, and the xylene contamination has resulted in ‘considerable upheaval’ and distress to the family.

She was advised to evacuate her home, due to the risk to their health, after investigations were carried out by bodies including the Dublin Fire Brigade, the EPA and response team experts hired by Ms Keane, counsel said.

The family have had to spent the last year living in rented accommodation.

It was “a mystery” to his client why the xylene, which is used as a solvent, and as a paint thinner, was being stored in canisters by the Dunnes in their basement, counsel added.

Counsel said that in June significant remedial works, including the removal of subsoil, to repair the damage commenced on the Dunnes’ property.

Ms Keane became concerned about this as there has been no co-ordinated response agreed among the parties in regards what are extensive remedial works.

In recent days counsel said Ms Keane concerned were heightened after a large crack appeared in the hallway of her property.

Sharon Keane - Large Crack
One of the “large cracks” that Ms Keane alleged was caused to her property.

The bad smell and noxious fumes which were present last year after the contamination was first detected, had also returned.

Attempts were made to contact the Dunnes and their insurance company, seeking to have the works halted, it is claimed.

Workers on the Dunnes’ property and the Dunnes’ insurance company have been made aware of the situation.

The workers had said they would stop if directed to by their superiors, but had denied the works had resulted in damage to Ms Keane’s home, counsel said.

However there has been no response from the Dunnes, and the works have continued, counsel said.

Ms Dunne is now worried that the ongoing works could result in further damage to her property, counsel said.

In light of her concerns, it was “astonishing” that works on the Dunnes’ property had not ceased, counsel said adding they had no alternative other than come to court.

Counsel said that after a year being out of the property it was very much in his client’s interests that the matter be dealt with, as soon as possible.

As a result of the recent developments and a failure to address his client’s concerns counsel said his client was seeking an injunction from the court halting works until her experts can carry out an inspection of the works.

At the High Court on Friday evening Mr Justice Barrett said he was happy to grant the order sought.

The injunction was granted on an ex-parte basis. The judge made the matter returnable to a date later this month.

The Irish Claims Authority recently published two articles on recourse for pollution form a neighbour crossing over a boundaries. Whilst this mostly relate to an oil leak at a neighbour’s property the same principles mostly apply. The first of these was about the Rylands v Fletcher argument and the “Polluter Pays” principle and the second was about Trespass and Nuisance. If you have suffered from an off site oil spill, chemical spill or pollution from a neighbour contact us for a free assessment of your rights and entitlements.

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