The Environmental Protection Agency has provisionally refused permission for Cement Roadstone Holdings to build a landfill to store the illegal waste found on their land in Co Wicklow. Speaking at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, I congratulated the EPA and urged them to impose the best solution to protect the environment and water quality. Below are some questions I put to the EPA Director General, as well as her responses:
Senator Ross: It is unusual for CRH to have anything at all refused to it in this country. Normally, it is granted whatever it wishes by whatever agency to which it applies. It has taken a certain amount of courage and independence for the EPA to do so. I wish to commend it and to advise it not to allow CRH to apply too much pressure on the agency to change its mind in the next 28 days. The EPA has four good reasons for refusing CRH’s application
Is there any guarantee that the EPA has come to the end of this particular problem in Blessington, County Wicklow? Is there any possibility that it extends a great deal further, particularly on CRH lands?
Second, perhaps the delegates can explain the content of the pollution in the Blessington site to the joint committee and to me as a layman.
Can Dr. Kelly tell the joint committee what evidence the EPA has as to where the material came from? Has she ever previously come across a similar case, where 175,000 tonnes or more has been dumped in a particular place without the owners ever seeing anything happening?
If the EPA courageously stands by the decision it has already made, what is the next step open to CRH? Is [Dr. Kelly] of the opinion that the EPA and Wicklow County Council should be given greater powers to impose penalties on multinationals which behave in this cowboy-like fashion?
Dr. Kelly: The illegal waste is on CRH’s site in Blessington, as Senator Ross pointed out, and needs to be removed from it. CRH has co-operated with Wicklow County Council and the EPA in terms of the investigation and putting up the finance for the investigation. We have received co-operation from CRH in our dealings with it.
Is there any guarantee that we have come to the end of the problem in Blessington? It is difficult to guarantee anything in this life but there has been a comprehensive investigation by Wicklow County Council and the EPA on the site… The EPA is conscious that it cannot guarantee that this is the end of the matter but it would like to obtain further information.
The material at the CRH site in County Wicklow is mainly composed of construction and demolition waste. A number of trial pits have been dug at the site and the material dumped there will be determined from these. The waste found there came mainly from the building boom in the greater Dublin area. Much of this is construction and demolition waste from sites being built.
If we uphold [the decision to ] after having examined any objections we receive, it means that Roadstone must consider other alternatives…
Senator Ross: Which is the most satisfactory solution from the point of view of the environment?
Dr. Kelly: From the point of view of the environment, the most satisfactory solution is to remediate and reuse as much of the material as possible and not to put it into another hole in the ground somewhere else.