Closing submissions are being heard at the oral hearing at the South Court Hotel. Picture: Adrian Butler
CLOSING submissions are being made this afternoon in the An Bord Pleanala oral hearing into Irish Cement's proposals for Mungret.
After almost four days of testimony before Inspector Michael Dillon, a number of parties will present their final arguments in favour of and against Irish Cement's €10m plan to phase out the use of fossil fuel and replace it with used tyres and solid recovered waste.
The controversial blueprint drew huge opposition from the community, paving the way for the oral hearing at the South Court Hotel.
Residents are fearful the measures will see an increase in toxic emissions into the local environment. But Irish Cement has always maintained that due to the high temperature it plans to burn the alternative, lower-carbon fuels at, it will effectively mean there is no increase in any emissions.
Limerick Against Pollution (LAP), the group set up in opposition to the proposals are expected to make a number of closing submissions, as are Limerick council's planning executives and counsel for Irish Cement themselves.
At this Friday morning's session, Irish Cement communications boss Brian Gilmore said fuel derived from waste will be burnt at the factory if the firm's plans get the go-ahead.
It came after he faced questions over the process from members of LAP, after a list revealed yesterday referred to 115 hazardous materials which could be burnt at the factory, if Irish Cement's plans get the green light by An Bord Pleanala and the environmental regulator.
In response to questions, Mr Gilmore said: “All fuels will be tested. We will not be bringing in fuel which does not meet specifications. There was a discussion around the European Waste Codes yesterday. Another cement plant has a list of 150 waste sources, but is using just three of them. These are meat and bone meal, secondary liquid fuel and solid recovered fuel. They are all produced to a specification.”
Mr Gilmore was referring to the Lagan cement plant in Kinnegad, Co Westmeath, which was the first in Ireland to start using lower-carbon alternative fuels in Ireland back in 2006.
He also said if Irish Cement's plans go ahead, no tyres will enter the kiln at under the temperature of 850°C. If the temperature of the kiln drops below this, production would stop, he added.
Later on in the hearing this Friday morning, Jack O'Sullivan, an environmental consultant acting for LAP, questioned why Irish Cement had not considered using gas to power the plant, in a similar fashion to Rusal in Aughinish.
“Are you aware this firm has gone away from electricity and its previous system and developed a combined heat and power plant?” he asked.
Jarlath Fitzsimons, counsel for Irish Cement, pointed Mr O'Sullivan in the direction of the firm's Environmental Impact Statement.
“Alternatives were considered in this, and this was certainly not one of them,” he said.
Mr Gilmore added that gas is still a fossil fuel, and the whole aim of Irish Cement's plans is to switch away from using these substances.
“As a business, we need to look at our cost base. It is approximately three times more expensive to use natural gas. While it may appear convenient to use natural gas, it is best left to domestic customers,” he told the hearing.
Philanthropist JP McManus was once again present at the opening session of Friday's hearing, alongside former County State solicitor John Power from Kilmallock. Mr McManus returned for the closing statements, which got under way at 2.15pm.
Following the conclusion of the hearing, An Bord Pleanala inspector Mr Dillon will issue a report containing a recommendation to either grant or reject Irish Cement's plans.
The Environmental Protection Agency will then decide on whether Irish Cement is granted an operational licence to proceed with its reforms in Mungret.