Cork Harbour, located at the southern tip of Ireland, is one of the biggest natural harbors in the world – said to be the second largest after Sydney, Australia. It provides access to the sea for the historic Port of Cork and is home to a busy container ship industry. It has been one of Ireland’s major employment hubs since the early 1900s. However, major urban developments along the harbor, combined with a severe lack of waste infrastructure and legacy pollution from a steel plant, are having a severe impact on water quality and the health of the community who still swim and fish in the waters. Cork Harbour once supported fish, shellfish and oyster fisheries, which have largely collapsed, and a teeming bird population. The Harbor is threatened by a toxic mix of ignorance, complacency, and complicity. Polluters are loosely monitored — and their pollution ignored. Cork Harbour Water Guardians is a bulwark against efforts to cover-up the pollution of the harbor by collecting evidence of pollution and polluting activities, communicating information to the public, and advocating for enforcement of environmental regulations.
Noel Sheehan is the co-founder and manager of Cork Harbour Water Guardians, a Waterkeeper Alliance Affiliate. Noel’s inspiration to start this organization stemmed from his passion for the area in which he grew up and has lived in all his life. He has witnessed the pollution to Cork Harbour over the years, and the health effects, including loss of life, it has had on friends and local communities. Noel’s responsibilities include fielding and investigating pollution reports from community residents, monitoring water quality, and communicating information to the people and authorities. Noel has been a local business owner in Cork Harbor for over 20 years and studies life coaching. His expertise in building a successful team, in addition to serving a concerned community based clientele, has prepared him well to be a Waterkeeper Affiliate. Noel is supported in this work by his long-time friend and co-founder, Christine O’Neill, former executive assistant to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
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