Limerick Mayor wants profit-based fines for environmental polluters

LIMERICK Mayor James Collins has called for profit-based fines for environmental pollution after what he described as the “laughable” fines imposed on Irish Cement for two dust leaks.

At Limerick District Court last Friday Irish Cement Limited pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Environmental Protection Agency Act with Judge Marian O’Leary imposing €1,250 fines on both counts with two months to pay.

Following the ruling, Mayor Collins said that the 26-year-old environmental protection laws should be updated after the “paltry fines” imposed on Irish Cement for the two “fugitive dust emissions” in April and May Bank Holiday weekend in 2017.

“On two occasions last year, residents in the Sli Na Manach estate in Mungret had their cars and garden furniture covered in dust emissions from the Irish Cement plant. The company’s response was to offer the residents free car washes.

“We are talking about black, gritty dust covering cars. The residents did not lie down and accept the insulting offer of car washes. Irish Cement instead faced prosecution under our Environmental Protection laws,” Mayor Collins explained.

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“The court judgment, while welcome, highlights the David and Goliath task faced by residents, Limerick Against Pollution, and councillors like myself, in trying to stop Irish Cement from burning toxic waste in Mungret.

“Fines of €4,000 could have been imposed, but instead Irish Cement must pay fines of €1,250 for both counts. This is a laughable fine.”

The Fianna Fail politician also believes that the case clearly demonstrated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should not grant a licence to Irish Cement to burn toxic waste in Mungret.

He is calling for new laws with stringent fines for environmental breaches, fines that are based on a percentage of the company’s annual profits, and “not some token fine that they pay out of petty cash”.

“Irish Cement cannot be trusted to protect the local environment and the health of residents. It’s time that companies like Irish Cement, and its owners CRH, were hit with a reality check. Our environmental protection laws are completely outdated. The maximum fine Irish Cement could have faced was €4,000. This is based on a law that is 26 years old — the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992. It’s clearly outdated, ineffective and no deterrent to companies like Irish Cement.

“This plant is located in an area where we are master planning hundreds of new houses, new sports and community facilities. Are we really going to leave the residents there literally living under a cloud? This has to be addressed by the Minister for Environment,” he declared.

Read more environment stories in the Limerick Post Environment section.