HOMEOWNERS across the city are being warned they may face prosecution and a €5,000 fine if they are caught burning so-called “smoky” coal this winter.
New laws, which came into effect earlier this year, made it illegal to burn bituminous fuel in designated areas across the country - including the greater Limerick city area.
Previously, it was only illegal to “sell, market or distribute” such fuels in Limerick city.
Under the new regulations, anyone prosecuted for burning smokey fuel faces a maximum fine of €5,000 and the possibility of up to six months in prison.
The ban on smoky coal has also been extended to include areas such as Caherdavin, Dooradoyle, Raheen, Castletroy and Annacotty.
In addition to initiating court proceedings, local authorities also have the power to issue on-the-spot fines to those who are caught breaking the law.
Up to six staff have been assigned by Limerick City Council to enforce the laws, which are designed to minimise air pollution.
Paul Foley, senior executive engineer with the Environment Department at City Hall, says its staff have been conducting on-the-spot checks in recent weeks.
“There is good compliance and awareness amongst vendors and traders and the aim of this is to create awareness amongst homeowners,” he said adding that the biggest challenge for the council is to identity where smokey coals are being burnt.
Paul O’Grady of Limerick City Council says the local authority will only initiate legal proceedings as a last resort.
“At this stage, we see it as an awareness exercise and if we think that there is a house that is burning smokey coal then we will engage with them firstly and obviously we would hope for cooperation on that regard but as a local authority we will have to enforce the regulations,” he said.
Under the provisions of the Air Pollution Act, local authority staff are permitted to enter private homes and take samples of fuel which they suspect are bituminous.
Homeowners in County Limerick are not affected by the new laws as there are currently no restricted zones in Limerick outside of the greater urban area.