Sunday 11 December 2016

'Noxious fumes' still flowing from fined oil plant, say locals

Published 10/01/2016 | 02:30

Labour Senator John Whelan at Leinster House yesterday.Pic Tom Burke 23/6/2015
Labour Senator John Whelan at Leinster House yesterday.Pic Tom Burke 23/6/2015

Residents who live beside an oil recycling plant in Laois claim foul odours continue to emanate from the facility that was prosecuted in the District Court last month for licence breaches.

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Enva was fined €8,000 in the District Court last month after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took it to court over what residents say are noxious, oily fumes. The firm was at the centre of a Prime Time Investigates programme last week.

At the hearing on December 18, Judge Catherine Staines is understood to have hit out at the odours affecting residents, and noted that they could take an injunction to close the plant. She also questioned why the Environmental Protection Agency took the case to the District Court on learning that she didn't have the power to suspend the plant.

Kevin Keyes and his wife, Edel, who live beside the plant, said that "absolutely horrendous" odours emanated from the plant on the day of the court case on December 18, and again on Thursday and Friday of last week.

"The day that the court case happened, the day Prime Time aired and the day after have been three particularly bad days," said Mr Keyes.

Residents have been complaining for years over the oily, gassy odour which they have attributed to the Enva plant. Their concerns were highlighted in the Sunday Independent in 2014, but the EPA said the Enva facility was "largely compliant with its licence" and that residents did not face a health risk.

The EPA took action over the summer after it received 32 complaints about the smell coming from the plant between June and September of last year, resulting in the prosecution of the firm.

The smell was so bad at times that Irish Rail workers nearby kept a log charting the severity of the odour. A copy of one log, which starts in July 7, 2014, and runs to last September, records the odour as being particularly bad throughout last summer.

Gerard O'Leary, director of enforcement at the EPA, told the Sunday Independent the agency would be investigating all complaints and would be monitoring Enva closely.

Labour senator John Whelan, who has campaigned on behalf of affected residents, claimed the EPA's credibility was "shot" following the Prime Time programme, and said it needed to be radically restructured.

He claimed the EPA has been inundated with complaints for years and it was "only finally forced to act" when Prime Time and local residents "closed in on them" - which the EPA has denied.

In a statement, Enva said it was committed to resolving any odour concerns and was committed to applying the highest possible standards to its Portlaoise facility. It has applied to the EPA to install a €1m system to capture chemical emissions in the air.

Mr Whelan said he would be raising the issue with environment m inister Alan Kelly.

"Underpinned by legislation, the EPA is virtually answerable to no one, under the pretext of its statutory independence. However, this is grievously flawed and unsatisfactory and the EPA now urgently requires a radical root-and-branch reform and restructuring to render it more accountable and answerable to the public, which it is intended to serve."

Sunday Independent

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