LIMERICK Against Pollution (LAP) have welcomed a move by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to initiate legal proceedings against Irish Cement in relation to alleged breaches of its operating licence at its plant in Mungret.
A spokeswoman for the EPA confirmed to the Limerick Post this week that a summons has been issued to Irish Cement and the first court date is set for March 2. They were summonsed, she said, “for breaches of their license conditions”.
Spokesman for LAP, Tim Hourigan welcomed the news but said the group is “astounded that it has taken so much time, and so much energy to bring the first court case against Irish Cement Limerick, considering the number of times the factory has dumped on the residents”.
“Irish Cement’s Limerick factory has previously got away with a slap on the wrist and paying for car washes for major incidents that coated several estates with dust from their ageing kiln. It took the combined pressure of multiple residents associations to get the EPA to clamp down on this,” Mr Hourigan claimed.
“There’s no long term study on the effects on this dust, which is amazing considering that their own witness, Dr Martin Hogan confirmed that there is a correlation between the location of cement factories and certain types of cancer. He said that there is about a 20 to one chance that this is just a coincidence. That didn’t inspire anyone with confidence,” he added.
LAP members are hopeful that the upcoming prosecution reflects a new approach by the EPA to be more proactive in monitoring and punishing major polluters. Irish Cement is now on their top five list for enforcement and local resident groups say they will be keeping a close eye on this case.
“We don’t want it to just be a case of token enforcement to try to restore faith in either the EPA or the cement factory. They both have a long way to go to regain the trust of local people, given the long history of almost self regulation that we’ve had to endure,” said Claire Keating of Slí na Manach Residents Association.
LAP remains opposed to Irish Cement’s plan to take in 90,000 tonnes of waste per year to burn in their Mungret kiln. In August’s Oral Hearing LAP gave examples from the 115 proposed waste fuels that Irish Cement seeks to burn. Amongst them were fly ash from other incinerators, drilling muds, animal tissue wastes and “end of life” tyres.
An Bord Pleanála has not made a decision on the planning appeal yet, and no announcement is expected before the new year.
Solidarity councillor Cian Prendiville this week accused Irish Cement of consistently putting their own profits before the environment and the rights of their own workers.
“This is a company who have had regular dust blow outs and breaches of their limits, which they have attempted to deny. It’s about time the EPA took action against Irish Cement. This is a sign that people power is having an effect on the EPA,” Cllr Prendiville declared.
However, he agreed with Limerick Against Pollution that legal proceedings cannot just be a token slap on the wrist for show.
“The EPA should insist a third party is given responsibility for the continuous emissions monitoring at the factory. It is ludicrous that in Ireland big polluters are allowed to self-regulate, monitoring and reporting their own emissions. This is the same light-touch regulation we saw in the banks, and it should be stopped,” he concluded.
A spokesman for Irish Cement confirmed to the Limerick Post that it has received a District Court summons from the EPA in relation to dust emission incidents earlier this year at the Mungret factory.
by Alan Jacques