EPA probing 'caustic spill' Aughinish Alumina in Limerick

Maria Flannery

Reporter:

Maria Flannery

The EPA received a complaint in relation to a spill at the Aughinish Alumina facility

The EPA received a complaint in relation to a spill at the Aughinish Alumina facility

THE ENVIRONMENTAL Protection Agency has launched an investigation after a “procedural and operational failure” caused the spillage of a caustic substance at Aughinish Alumina in early February.

The EPA received a complaint on February 8, in relation to a spill which occurred on the morning of February 5.

A spokesperson for the EPA said: “On the 8th February 2018, the EPA received a complaint in relation to a spill at the Aughinish Alumina facility which occurred on the morning of the 5th February. The EPA contacted the licensee and a report on the incident was provided.

“Following a transfer of caustic between tanks early on the morning of the 5th February, the transfer lines were flushed as per normal procedure. However due to various procedural and operational failures, the 22m³ of the flushed liquid, comprising dilute caustic with a pH of 8.8, overtopped a bund and spilled onto tarmac and gravel in the vicinity,” continued the spokesperson.

“The licensee reported that the spilled material was cleaned up. The EPA's investigation in relation to the cause and impact of  this incident is ongoing.”

Aughinish claimed that “the material was not released to surface water,” according to the EPA spokesperson. She added that the investigation — into whether any of the alkaline substance ended up in the nearby waters of the Shannon Estuary — is ongoing.

In a separate incident last week, the plant had to be shut down due to the electrical fault.

“On the 19th February 2018 the licensee (Aughinish) informed the EPA of a plant shutdown which occurred on the night of the 14th February. An electric fault triggered a controlled shut down of the plant,” said the EPA spokesperson.

“This shutdown was part of the plant’s standard safety protocols. When the electric fault was rectified the plant was restarted (12 hours later). There were no uncontrolled emissions reported before or during this period. The licensee notified the EPA of this event as part of its weekly start-up and shutdown notifications.”

Aughinish declined to comment on the incidents.