Ireland’s worst environmental offenders named and shamed by EPA

Published by Shane O'Reilly on

July 12th, 2017

Ireland’s environmental watchdog has warned five industrial sites already under its radar for serious breaches of the environmental law to clean up their act or face further sanctions.

The five sites are Arrow Group Limited, Co Kildare; Rosderra Irish Meats Group, Co Offaly; T & J Standish Limited, Co Tipperary; Tipperary Co-operative Creamery Limited, Co Tipperary; and Irish Cement Limited, Co Limerick.

The sites are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Priority Site (NPS) list, which is updated on a quarterly basis.

Although the sites only account for less than one per cent of EPA licensed sites across the country, they account for eight per cent of EPA site inspections completed so far this year. Three of the sites alone accounted for over half of all complaints received to-date in 2017.

Environmental performance is calculated based on the number of complaints, incidents and non-compliance issues over the past six months. The EPA believes that the NPS rating system will encourage compliance and will also provide targets for the EPA for further enforcement.

The EPA will “escalate enforcement action” against both companies and their directors if compliance does not improve, said the Director of Environmental Enforcement, Gerard O’Leary.

Mary Gurrie, Programme Manager in Mr O’Leary’s department added that it was “not acceptable” for licensed sites to cause nuisance or impact on the environment.  “These operators face further enforcement action,” she added.

Irish Cement Limited

Earlier this year, the EPA found the Irish Cement plant to be “in non-compliance” over dust emissions, and opened a formal probe into the firm after identifying a number of other issues at the plant on the edge of Limerick City.

Plans from Irish Cement to burn 90,000 tonnes of industrial waste and used tyres at its plant in Castlemungret, Mungret, Co Limerick was recently flagged in the Dáil by Willie O’Dea, TD. 

Irish Cement is one of four cement plants on the island of Ireland, three of which have moved from burning fossil fuel to burning industrial and toxic waste.

The Limerick Deputy outlined his concern at the plans as there are 25,000 currently living in the immediate vicinity of the plant, which he said has an “appalling safety record”.

“I am advised by people who know a lot more about this than I do, that the burning of toxic waste in a cement plant is infinitely more dangerous to the environment than a traditional incinerator.

“There is a wealth of scientific evidence that shows a very close connection between various forms of cancer and respiratory diseases and proximity to this type of operation.”

Planning permission for an extension to the facility was granted by Limerick City County Council in March, with an appeal currently before An Bord Pleanána. A decision from the planning authority is due in early August.

Environmental enforcement trends

€178,000 in fines and costs were paid out from 11 prosecutions last year, according to the EPA’s Industrial and Waste License Enforcement Report 2016. The report highlighted that the vast majority of environmental complaints against licensed facilities in 2016 related to odour nuisances.

In total, the environmental watchdog conducted over 1,500 inspections last year, most of which were to sites in the waste sector.

Enva Ireland in Laois, Knockharley Landfill in Meath, Ballynagran Landfill in Wicklow, Greyhound and Thorntons Recycling facilities in Dublin and a number of Oxigen Environmental sites accounted for the majority of inspections, 95 per cent of which were unannounced.

A total of 1,542 non-compliances were recorded for 325 licensed sites, with the Food and Drink sector being the least compliant sector.

New licenses granted in 2016 shows that there is an expansion of sites conducting Intensive Agriculture, particularly in Monaghan and Cavan, and further expansion of waste management across the country.

The full report is available on the EPA website.

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Shane O'Reilly

Shane is a contributor to the Green News. He is an environmental research scientist, based in University College Dublin and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He earned his PhD in environmental chemistry from Dublin City University.