Friday, 28 December 2007

Top waste firm facing legal action over landfill breach

ONE of the country's biggest waste operators has been told it could face prosecution for not operating a dump properly.

The Environmental Protection Agency wrote to Greenstar last month warning that the company's failure to report a serious incident at the Knockharley landfill in Meath could result in legal action.

The dump, which has been found six times not to be complying with its waste licence, has caused odour and noise problems for residents since it opened three years ago.

The EPA says complaints have increased each year since it opened, with 305 made in 2007.

While Greenstar has been "largely compliant" with its waste licence, the environmental watchdog says it has been issued with one non-compliance notice -- but the company does not accept the report and has requested it be withdrawn.

But correspondence on the public file shows Greenstar has been warned since December 2005 it is not fully compliant.

That month, it was told gas from the landfill was not venting properly, a breach of the licence.

A warning letter noted: "While the agency acknowledges that the facility is in general very well maintained, it is concerned that the facility is subject to ongoing odour nuisance problems".

A month later, Greenstar was again issued with a non-compliance notice relating to odour. The following May there was another breach of the licence.

EPA inspectors also noted remedial work demanded the previous January had not been completed. It also said the landfill's 2005 annual environmental report did not show a non-compliance relating to odour, which would be regarded as "misleading".

In July 2007 another non-compliance notice was issued. Inspectors noted that odours were detected off-site on seven of 12 inspections. The following month another non-compliance notice was issued, again relating to odour.

On November 1 last, the EPA wrote to Greenstar saying it had again breached its licence by failing to report that a gas flare had stopped working, which it was required to do as it was deemed "an incident".

Residents are furious that the dump is not being run under the terms of the licence, and said last night the EPA had to act on their concerns.

"There is an apparent inability on the part of the EPA to enforce the waste licence," spokesman Paddy Lawlor of the Knockharley and District Residents Association said.

"No one will answer our questions. All we want is the EPA to enforce the conditions of the licence. If they do that we'll have no complaints. The EPA are not taking responsibility, they need to act."

The EPA said it had "expended significant resources" on addressing residents' concerns, and would continue to do so. Consultants had been employed to undertake an independent evaluation of practices on the site, and their report would "inform the enforcement plan for this site and any enforcement action proposed by the EPA".

Greenstar said its dump was "the most compliant waste facility in the country". It had received two non-compliance notices in 2007, which were being appealed, and there was "no fault" with the landfill.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

No comments: