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EPA accused of being ‘asleep at the wheel’

By Owen Ryan

THE Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was the subject of stinging criticism as a foul smell plagued Shannon in 2013 and the organisation has now been berated in the Seanad as “another example of the watchdog falling asleep at the wheel”.
Senator John Whelan made the claim as he spoke about the Enva plant in Portlaoise, which, he claimed, is causing serious pollution there. There have been complaints of odours at the Portlaoise plant. Enva also has a plant in Shannon.

Enva

Speaking in the Seanad under privilege, Senator Whelan said, “I have documentary proof that the harmful and hazardous emissions, some of which are carcinogens, from the Enva Ireland plant in Portlaoise measure up to 32 times and in some instances up to 1,000 times more than the accepted levels as set down by the Environmental Protection Agency and other authorities.”

He also claimed, “the EPA is colluding with the company in what is a cover up of what in some instances are carcinogenic emissions going into the atmosphere and wastewater in the vicinity.”

In a statement, Enva defended itself from the claims about its Portlaoise facility. “Enva strongly rejects the unfounded claims made by Senator Whelan under Oireachtas privilege. We regularly carry out monitoring at our Portlaoise site to ensure our staff are not exposed to levels of substances that would impact their health or the health of anyone living in the surrounding area. As part of our ongoing environmental management processes, Enva routinely uses international environmental consultants RPS to conduct additional monitoring and to assist us in dealing with any queries raised by the EPA.”

The EPA also defended itself against the comments made in the Seanad. “The Environmental Protection Agency takes most seriously its responsibility for the licensing and control of waste treatment facilities to ensure that they comply with environmental legal requirements and do not endanger human health or harm the environment.
“The EPA utterly rejects recent allegations and criticisms made in this regard by Senator John Whelan.

“The EPA continually monitors, assesses and takes necessary enforcement action against licensed facilities in accordance with best practice. Complaints to the Agency are taken seriously and receive attention and follow-through. The EPA is fully transparent in this regard; records and correspondence with licensees are a matter of public record, including complaints and licensees’ response to these complaints.”

At a recent meeting of Shannon Town Council, it was claimed that, while other towns in the country have failing sewerage systems, only one other (Portlaoise) has a smell similar to Shannon.

Shannon Town Councillor, Sean McLoughlin, told The Clare Champion he agrees with Senator Whelan about the EPA and that the agency needs to give an explanation to the people of Shannon.

“I agree totally that the EPA are accountable to nobody, they are a law unto themselves. They have let the people of Shannon down. I’m still calling on them to explain, why around 30 other towns which haven’t got treatment plants up to standard don’t have a smell, apart from one town up the country.”

Shannon- based Councillor Patricia McCarthy said she holds concerns about the EPA. “I have never been satisfied with the way the EPA does its duty, that we can’t question their findings and we have no right of appeal about some of the decisions, particularly in relation to licensing. It also appears that one side of the EPA doesn’t seem to talk to the other one.”

When contacted about the Shannon plant, ENVA said it is not aware of any emission issues and didn’t want to comment further beyond its statement on the Portlaoise plant.

The EPA acknowledged that there were three non-compliances with the terms of licence at Enva in Shannon since the beginning of 2013.
It stated that on February 4, 2013, a non-compliance was issued for exceedance of non- hazardous waste accepted for the whole of 2013, with 22,808.6 tonnes taken in compared to 20,000 tonnes. However, overall total waste intake limit wasn’t exceeded.

On April 11 a non compliance was issued in relation to odour, while on May 8 of last year a non-compliance was issued for exceedance of volumetric flow for licensed emission to air location. However an increased flow value was subsequently agreed by the EPA.

 

“The EPA continually monitors, assesses and takes necessary enforcement action against licensed facilities in accordance with best practice. Complaints to the Agency are taken seriously and receive attention and follow-through. The EPA is fully transparent in this regard; records and correspondence with licensees are a matter of public record, including complaints and licensees’ response to these complaints.”
The EPA also acknowledged that there were three non-compliances with the terms of licence at Enva in Shannon between the start of 2013 and now.
It stated that on February 4 of last year a non-compliance was issued for exceedance of non hazardous waste accepted for the whole of 2013, with 22,808.6 tonnes taken in compared to 20,000 tonnes. However, overall total waste intake limit wasn’t exceeded.
On April 11 a non compliance was issued in relation to odour, while
on May 8 of last year a non-compliance was issued for exceedance of volumetric flow for licensed emission to air location. However an increased flow value was subsequently agreed by the EPA.

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