Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Topical Issue Debate
Is the Minister satisfied? Is he aware of the criticisms of the EPA, namely, that it is insufficiently staffed, has insufficient expertise and operates a kind of self-regulation system whereby companies, such as Irish Cement Limited, monitor their own omissions and report occasionally to the EPA? He will find that when the emission levels are shown to have been exceeded, often the sensors are blamed and it is cited that they are contaminated. I have seen this myself. How many prosecutions have resulted from investigations by the EPA? Has a licence granted ever been withdrawn? I want answers to these questions and I want to know whether the Government has any plans to up the performance of the EPA.
Can the Minister offer any comfort whatsoever to my constituents? So far, 2,500 people have objected to the issue of the EPA licence. People are very scared. I am dealing with them regularly. We have had a number of large public meetings. I have walked around some of the estates in the immediate vicinity of the cement plant and I have seen the physical consequences: the white dust on cars, etc. I found it difficult to breathe after walking around the estate immediately adjoining the cement plant one day. People tell me constantly that while the EPA is pretty busy and while its representatives come up when contacted, etc., nothing is happening. The same things keep recurring. Now we are in the process of moving from burning fossil fuels to burning this industrial toxic waste, and people are scared out of their wits. Can the Minister say anything to me that will enable me to go back to these people and reassure them to some degree?