Green Party call for licensing system review after major fire at waste facility

Published by Sorcha McManigan on

January 15th, 2018

The Green Party has called for a review of waste licensing in the wake of a major fire at a metal recycling plant in Co Dublin last week.

The blaze broke out in a shed at a car recycling plant on St Margaret’s Road close to Swords and Dublin airport last Wednesday.

The Dublin Fire brigade was called in around 9 am and it took eight fire units to get the blaze under control. Fingal County Council offered additional assistance by increasing water pressure.

Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten confirmed last week that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was monitoring any possible impact on air quality after Wednesday’s fire.

History repeating itself

According to Green Party Councillor, Ciarán Cuffe, the incident outlined the need to hold an investigation into Ireland’s licensing procedures.

He added that the fire was a case of history “repeating itself” as a similar fire occurred four years ago at a similar facility in Ballymount, Co Dublin.

The fire at Oxigen Environmental Recycling Plant in Ballymount in January 2014 burnt for five days and the company was fined €18,000 for holding waste in a manner likely to endanger humans or harm the environment.

“It seems clear that we need to improve both planning, fire safety certification and licensing procedures for such facilities,” Cllr Cuffe added. “Vast amounts of toxic substances are being released into the air each time a fire like this breaks out”.

Access to environmental information

Cllr Cuffe called on the EPA to “up their game” on how they manage facilities such as recycling plants and that licensing information is “hard to find on the EPA’s website. “This makes it virtually impossible for the public to locate clear information in a timely manner,” Cllr Cuffe added.

A report from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) – Europe’s largest network of environmental organisations – released last November examined the level of crucial information EU member states provide online about highly-polluting activities in their countries.

The report gave the EPA’s website the highest among all the sites examined as part of the study, finding it “easy to use” and noting that the search function on the website was a “useful and powerful tool” for users to quickly and accurately find information.

However, there is always room for improvement and greater transparency according to Anton Lazarus, one of the report’s author, who added that while the EPA’s provisions are among the best in Europe, “the bar is set pretty low”.

“We hope the EPA will take note of the findings and recommendations of our report, one of which was to stop uploading scanned photocopies of original documents – something else that Councillor Cuffe has rightly criticised,” Mr Lazarus said.

He added: “More public involvement in decision making about environmentally harmful activities raises standards and reduces the negative impacts of industry on our health and environment.”

The report did not examine conditions set in industrial permits, with Mr Lazarus also supporting Cllr Cuffe’s call for a tightening of licensing conditions and a review of whether lessons have been learned from previous incidents in Ireland.

The report found that more than half of the EU’s Member States are failing to share crucial information about highly-polluting activities effectively online, with many failing to meet the minimum legal requirements for transparency under EU law.


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Sorcha McManigan

Sorcha has a Degree Honours in Journalism with French from DIT and is passionate about social issues and radio production