March 6th, 2020
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold an oral hearing to re-evaluate its decision to grant an industrial emissions licence to Irish Cement to allow for the burning of non-hazardous waste as fuel at its factory in Co Limerick.
The announcement follows persistent public scrutiny about the EPA’s decision to greenlight the factory’s request for receiving the licence. The Oral Hearing is set for May and will be chaired by senior inspector Mr Patrick Byrne.
The Oral Hearing is open to members of the public. Members of the public who have not submitted an objection to date but wish to participate in the proceedings can do so with the approval of the Chairperson. Any such request can only be made to the Chairperson during the Oral Hearing.
In a switch from burning fossil fuels, the licence allows for the annual burning of 90,000 of a wide range of “non-hazardous” waste items at the factory as “alternative” fuel, including plastic, used tyres and animal waste.
Concerned citizens in Limerick are worried about the potential hazardous nature of emissions arising from the burnt waste material, arguing that it would jeopardise public and environmental safety and undermine air quality in Limerick.
The EPA said that it was “satisfied” that emissions from the plant would not pose a threat to the public when “operated in accordance with the conditions of the proposed licence”. The conditions, stipulated by the EPA, include controls on emissions to air, water discharge as well as rigid emission monitoring measures.
Irish Cement argues that replacing fossil fuel with alternative power is standard practice across Europe and will lead to significant alleviation of CO2 emissions. The company has also said that the Castlemungret plant has secured jobs for the locals and is pertinent to Limerick’s economic health.
In late 2017, Irish Cement was fined €4,000 for breaching the terms of its emission licence at its plant in Castlemungret following reports of thick “glue-like” dust leakage from its facility to the environment.
The EPA received 21 health and safety complaints from locals who documented dust on their cars, homes and gardens. In court, Irish Cement claimed that it did whatever it could to make amends and provided car wash facilities for those impacted by the leakage.
According to The Irish Examiner, the company was convicted of two counts of breaching its Industrial Emissions License on dates in April and May 2017. Irish Cement has also featured on the EPA’s quarterly worst offender’s list for breaching environmental regulations on two occasions in July 2017 and January 2018.