THE PROPOSAL by Irish Cement to burn 90,000 tonnes of waste at its plant in Mungret has been raised in the Dáil by Willie O’Dea, who called for the plans to be delayed until a review of the EPA can be carried out.
The Limerick city TD told Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Denis Naughten, that the Castlemungret plant has “an appalling safety record”.
“Its argument is that there are four cement plants on the island of Ireland - one is across the Border - three have moved from burning fossil fuel to burning industrial and toxic waste, so what is the problem with a fourth one doing so? It also argues that this process is widespread throughout Europe and other parts of the world and that it has worked well, particularly in Germany,” outlined Deputy O’Dea.
“That argument leaves out a number of factors. First, it leaves out the extra filtration and mitigating equipment used in Germany, which is not proposed to be used here. More crucially, it also leaves out that fact that since various countries allowed this process, in accordance with rules formulated to cover it, science has moved on,” said Mr O’Dea.
“Seeing that science has shown us the dangers to public health of these operations elsewhere in the world, why should we allow one to go ahead here? The usual practice of the EPA is to give the go-ahead, the licence, if planning permission is granted, which calls into question, incidentally, what the EPA is for in the first place,” he added.
Mr Naughten said that he has “no function in monitoring or enforcing the conditions attached” to EPA licences.
“The operation and monitoring of the facility is a matter for the relevant statutory authorities, including the Environmental Protection Agency, and I am satisfied the plant is subject to the proper regulatory controls,” said the minister.
Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea said that the EPA is regularly criticised for being understaffed, as having insufficient expertise and that it allows companies to operate a “self-regulation system, whereby companies, such as Irish Cement Limited, monitor their own omissions and report occasionally to the EPA”.
“He [the minister] will find that when the emission levels are shown to have been exceeded, often the sensors are blamed and it is cited that they are contaminated. I have seen this myself,” said Mr O’Dea.
Minister Denis Naughten said that he would ask the EPA to respond directly to Mr O’Dea’s concerns.
“I understand where he is coming from regarding the issue of policing, but the reality is that the EPA has issued enforcement proceedings against a number of businesses.
“The primary focus of the EPA is to make an operation compliant rather than close it. Nonetheless, it has closed operations in the past,” said Minister Naughten.