THE Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Clare County Council were both under fire at this week’s meeting of Shannon Electoral Area councillors, as members discussed the smell that has plagued Shannon.
One of the councillors, Fine Gael’s Sean McLoughlin, even said that locals might have to erect barricades to keep out trucks carrying hazardous materials.
Both Councillor McLoughlin and Councillor Gerry Flynn brought motions to the meeting regarding the smell.
Councillor McLoughlin was asking that the council request the Department of the Environment to organise an independent review of all industrial and waste licences in Shannon. He said that such a review should be carried out by an independent body, from outside the country, rather than the EPA, who he made it quite clear he didn’t have any faith in.
A reply from the council’s Environment and Water Directorate stated; “Clare County Council are currently considering requesting the review of existing licences of a number of facilities in Shannon as one of the follow up items to the recent investigations into foul odours in the Shannon area. To this end we have been preparing draft documentation for this purpose in the past few weeks.”
It also stated, “The legal framework for such a review is that it is carried out under those provisions by the Environmental Protection Agency.”
Responding to it, Councillor McLoughlin said that he didn’t trust the EPA to do the work required. He also said that he had information that the EPA had changed the terms of at least one licence, allowing a company to dispose of 25,000 units of a certain substance, compared to 10,000 previously.
He claimed that waste from other counties is being brought into Shannon to be dumped. “It’s not fair to be bringing shite from other counties to Shannon and putting it into the sewers, there’s no other word for it.”
Companies are effectively left to monitor themselves, he claimed. “Nobody is monitoring them, only themselves. They keep the paperwork and the EPA go in and check that.”
Councillor Flynn claimed that an EPA report, some of which was published in last week’s Clare Champion, had been kept away from Councillors for some time, although Shannon town manager, Bernadette Kinsella said she was unaware of it.
Reading from the report, he quoted parts saying that a smell of hydrogen sulphide is emerging, and that very little is being achieved in terms of wastewater treatment.
Independent PJ Ryan laid the blame for the situation at the door of the EPA. “They’re issuing licenses to people who are processing materials and feeding into an antiquated plant,” he commented.
The Cratloe man acknowledged that the council have a role in running the plant, but he said “it’s very hard when the EPA are issuing licences for three times more than it (the plant) can cope with.”
He said he was sure that someone is benefiting from the situation too. “Somebody is making big money somewhere along the line.”
Labour’s Greg Duff said that it shouldn’t be up to the community to monitor the situation and observed that if no one had started to complain the problem would have been let “go on forever and a day.”
He also said that the health and the lives of the people of Shannon must come before jobs and industry.
Fianna Fáil’s Pat McMahon said that it was time for the community to be given a bit of honesty about the situation, and told what’s going on.
Independent Patricia McCarthy was another who blasted the EPA, saying she had lost any faith she ever held in the body.
She observed that the foul smells have largely disappeared in recent weeks, but said that this in itself raises questions, because there has been no improvement to the waste water treatment plant.
Returning to the theme Councillor McLoughlin said that the EPA have massaged figures, and he pointed out that other towns of a similar size to Shannon, with equally flawed treatment systems; don’t end up with terrible smells like the one that has been endured in recent months.
He said that not tackling the issue is actually bad for jobs. “Imagine talking to a person who is thinking about bringing 20 or 30 or 50 jobs. If he gets that smell he’ll run out of town.”
If the situation isn’t resolved he said the people of the town would end up “manning barriers and stopping trucks coming into Shannon and I’ll be with them.”
Councillor Flynn said that €53 million has recently been spent on treatment plants in Letterkenny and Gweedore, but that Shannon has been left with a plant unfit for purpose. He also pointed out that a previous engineer’s report had described it as “decrepit” but nothing has been done.
It was agreed that a meeting be sought with the Minister for the Environment to inform him of the problem in Shannon and look for funding for improvements to the wastewater treatment plant.