Ireland’s worst environmental offenders named and shamed by EPA

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.

A version of this article appeared in the Green News on July 12th, 2017.

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Plastic polluting Scotland’s remotest islands and beaches

Marine scientists aboard Greenpeace’s vessel the Beluga II have documented extensive plastic pollution in some of the most remote parts of the UK.

The Beluga II  is due to dock in Edinburgh today after a 2-month survey and in-depth analysis will follow in the coming months.

Initial findings document extensive plastic pollution in remote locations of Scotland, including important feeding grounds for basking sharks, seals and whales and numerous seabird colonies.

This survey builds on the increasing body of scientific evidence that has highlighted the scale of the plastic pollution problem in the world’s oceans and the threat to marine life and human health.

recent Coastwatch report showed that 80 per cent of surveyed beaches in Ireland contained plastic litter.

Greenpeace will present a petition to the Scottish government calling for a deposit refund scheme for drinks containers to be introduced.

This follows the recent announcement of a bill by the Green Party that would implement a similar system here in Ireland.

Among the measures, the bill would implement a 10 cent refund to citizens returning plastic, glass or aluminium drinks containers.

Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan TD outlined the global context for this bill: “The issue of plastic pollution is a massive challenge. Every year, over 110 million tonnes of plastic is produced. Of this, up to 43% ends up in landfill.”

He also referenced the worrying estimates that 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into oceans each year and that at the current rate, we are on route to having more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

Countries that use such schemes typically see greater than 90 per cent return rates.

The Environmental Pillar has long advocated for a drinks container deposit refund scheme and have just testified before the Joint Oireachtas Budget Committee asking for such a measure to be adopted.

Mindy O’Brien, of VOICE, which is a member organisation of the Environmental Pillar, said: “With the new government in place, and with Scotland taking similar steps, we call on Minister Naughten to join 23 other countries and support this initiative to combat our throw-away society and to promote the circular economy”.

A version of this article appeared in the Green News on June 27th, 2017.

Green Party launch Waste Reduction Bill 2017

The Green Party today launched a Waste Reduction Bill to introduce a deposit refund scheme for glass and plastic bottles and a complete ban on single-use non-recyclable plastics, such as coffee cups and plastic cutlery.

Only 40 per cent of the 210,000 tonnes of plastic produced each year in Ireland is recycled and at least 52.5 per cent goes straight to landfill.

Evidence indicates that the best way to tackle plastic pollution is to stop it entering the environment in the first place. Deposit refund schemes are a tried and tested approach that work well in a number of other countries.

Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan TD outlined the global context for this bill: “The issue of plastic pollution is a massive challenge. Every year, over 110 million tonnes of plastic is produced. Of this, up to 43% ends up in landfill.”

He also referenced the worrying estimates that 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into oceans each year and that at the current rate, we are on route to having more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

Green Party Deputy Leader and TD for Dublin Rathdown Catherine Martin said: “The purpose of our bill is quite simple – to reduce the amount of plastic consumed in Ireland every year, and encourage recycling”. She expressed confidence that all parties in the Dáil will support such a “common sense proposal.”

Much of this plastic also ends up in the environment. In a report released last week, Coastwatch Ireland found that 80 per cent of surveyed coastal sites contained litter, with plastic bottles being the major type of litter.

The Green Party also quoted results from a recent survey by Coastwatch Ireland that showed 89% of people would support a deposit refund scheme.

The Environmental Pillar has long advocated for a drinks container deposit refund scheme and have just testified before the Joint Oireachtas Budget Committee asking for such a measure to be adopted.

Mindy O’Brien, of VOICE, which is a member organisation of the Environmental Pillar, said: “With the new government in place, and with Scotland taking similar steps, we call on Minister Naughten to join 23 other countries and support this initiative to combat our throw-away society and to promote the circular economy”.

A version of this article appeared in the Green News on June 15th, 2017.