Limerick City and County Council has responded to complaints about dust deposition made by residents in Mungret and Raheen. The complaints described thick dust deposited on cars, roofs and windows, solar panels and garden furniture, with the belief being that the source of the dust was likely to be the nearby Irish Cement plant.
In a joint statement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) the council said that the, “samples of dust from cars belonging to a number of complainants have been analysed and compared to samples of materials from the Irish Cement facility. The results indicate that the dust deposits contained Irish cement plant material along with ambient dusts due to the extended dry weather.”
The EPA and Limerick City and County Council have assessed the extent to which other potential sources of dust may exist in the area. To date, no such source has been identified as being a likely contributor to the issue.
As a result the EPA has initiated a formal Compliance Investigation into the management and control of dust at the Irish Cement facility. As part of this investigation, the company is conducting a detailed inspection of the material and product handling infrastructure and processes over the entire site to identify any potential defects. Irish Cement are to conclude the review in a month and to report back regularly to the EPA as it progresses. Any defects or failures are to be rectified immediately on discovery.
It went on to say that, “health advice based on sampling results to date and surveillance of healthcare usage confirms that exposure to the dust may cause respiratory irritation but does not pose a serious health risk in the short term.”
In relation to possible health implications, HSE Mid-West liaised with general practitioners and the local hospital emergency department. To date, no unusual patterns of ill health have been identified. HSE Mid-West will continue to monitor the situation in the coming weeks.
Reacting to this investigation, Irish Cement said that it “apologises for any inconvenience caused to its neighbours and commits to continuing to work with all the agencies and local communities to rectifying the situation.”
It also stated that it had taken a number of “proactive steps locally”and had “made arrangements for car washes and cleaning of affected properties.”
The EPA and Limerick City and County Council are establishing a network of dust monitoring units in four locations in Limerick city that will provide information on dust levels for assessment against air quality standards and will support ongoing health risk assessment by the HSE. The first of these units has been located in the Mungret/ Raheen area, and the remaining units should be in place by the 5th May. Results obtained and an assessment of any potential for adverse health impacts will be published in subsequent updates in this series.
Limerick City and County Council intends that the monitoring network will be upgraded to provide online real-time air quality information for Limerick.
Members of the public are encouraged to contact the EPA in the event of experiencing dust or other nuisance from EPA licensed facilities, either through the EPA website (https://lema.epa.ie/complaints) or at 053-916 0600 (24 hours).