Dáil debates

Thursday, 18 October 2007

5:00 pm

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)

I thank Deputy Chris Andrews for raising this matter. I am not precluded from discussing the issue. As the Deputy will be aware, as residents of Ringsend my family and I are personally affected by the smell emanating from the waste water treatment plant in the area. It is completely unacceptable that residents must endure this odour nuisance.

On taking office, I asked for a full report on this issue. The odour incidences at the Ringsend plant centre around an on-site sludge treatment facility and a treatment process. In 2005, Dublin City Council engaged independent consultants CDM of Boston, acknowledged experts in this area, to undertake an extensive technical examination of the processes at the Ringsend plant and to identify all possible sources of odours. Following this examination, a programme of works was commenced by the contractor operating the plant on behalf of the council. Unfortunately, the odour problem has periodically re-emerged and this has been attributed to maintenance procedures and equipment failure in the sludge process.

The first phase of the work programme to deal with odours, which eliminated the potential for odour releases from the thermal hydrolysis plant, was completed in mid-2006. The covering of the primary settlement inlet and outlet channels and the fitting of odour control units to these channels was also completed in 2006. Further works still to be completed include the provision of new enlarged combustion chambers to the sludge dryer units, covering the remaining open primary settlement tanks and the installation of additional odour control units for these tanks.

The three sludge dryers are being fitted with new combustion chambers. It is expected work on the first unit will be completed by the end of 2007. The second should be completed by mid-2008 and the last one by the end of 2008. Work on the 12 primary settlement tanks will be completed, starting in February 2008 and finishing in November 2008.

Some odour emissions originating from the sludge dryers have been exacerbated by the prevailing atmospheric and wind conditions. Where such unfavourable weather conditions are predicted in the short term pending the completion of the odour action programme, the operations contractor has given the council an undertaking that the sludge production operation will be adjusted to avoid the need to use the dryers.

While there has been a gradual improvement, I regret that progress has been punctuated by intermittent problems. Complaints to the council numbered approximately 100 in June 2007. Complaints in July, August and September were considerably reduced to 18, 7 and 26, respectively. There have been 13 complaints to date during October. Many people have given up calling the council. Fed up with the situation, they feel they are not getting action on their complaints.

The Deputy will accept that I am only too well aware of the annoyance and upset of people who cannot enjoy their homes or gardens because of these odours. However, I am satisfied that the council regards the putting in place of a permanent solution as a top priority and is maintaining ongoing contact with local residents' groups. I will tell the city manager again that the council must——


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