Questions over Irish Cement incinerator

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THE Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called for Irish Cement Limited to provide further details on the proposed use of alternative fuels in their cement manufacturing installation at Castlemungret.

The EPA has requested more information on a number of elements of the licence application including: waste acceptance capacity; raw materials, best available technology, emissions to atmosphere, human health, hydrology and hydrogeology, appropriate assessment, accidents and disasters and baseline reports.

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“Before the EPA can decide on a licence review, they must carry out a thorough environmental assessment of the proposals in the review application. This includes, in this case, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and an Appropriate Assessment (AA),” an EPA spokesman explained.

“Public participation is a central element of the EPA licence assessment process. In this case, the EPA has received over 3,500 individual public submissions on the application for a reviewed licence. As part of the assessment, the EPA will be carefully considering each one of these submissions.

“The EPA cannot grant a licence or a reviewed licence unless it is satisfied that the activity will meet all the required environmental protection standards, including that emissions from the activity will not endanger human health or harm the environment in the vicinity of the facility or over a wider area.”

Once the EPA has received and assessed all the required information, it will move to publish a proposed determination on the request by Irish Cement to review the conditions of their licence.

Mayor James Collins this week welcomed moves by the EPA to force Irish Cement to submit a natural impact statement assessing the environmental impact of its proposed incineration plant on special areas of conservation, including Curraghchase Forest Park.

“This is a welcome development for all of us who have campaigned against Irish Cement’s incineration proposals. We have warned from the outset that dust particles can carry on the wind for a radius of 20km. This development acknowledges that damage to special areas of conservation such as Curraghchase cannot be ruled out and further investigation is required,” the Fianna Fail councillor said.

Sinn Féin councillor for City West, Malachy McCreesh also welcomed the EPA’s move.

The communities of Limerick City and County will be dependent on the EPA to consider all the potential health hazards presented by the burning of waste materials in this highly populated area and eventually determine that Irish Cement should not be granted the licence review,” he said.

However, Irish Cement Communications Manager Brian Gilmore insisted that requests for further information are a regular feature of the EPA licence review process. 

“Irish Cement is happy to address the additional queries received from the EPA as part of the licence review application to allow for the fossil fuel replacement programme at the Mungret factory.

“This programme will reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels, reduce CO2 emissions by up to 40,000 tonnes per year, and will help recover valuable resources that might otherwise end up in landfill. Of the four cement factories in Ireland, the Mungret factory is the only one not using alternative fuels and one of the last in Europe still totally reliant on imported fossil fuels.

“Extensive experience over four decades in Europe demonstrates that replacing fossil fuels with these new fuels will not increase emissions from the factory,” Mr Gilmore concluded.