Tuesday 4 March 2008

EPA criticised on landfill evidence

THE HEAD of the Environmental Protection Agency, Dr Mary Kelly, appeared to be "widely inaccurate and incorrect" in evidence she provided to the European Parliament in relation to plans for a regional landfill in north Co Dublin, it was claimed yesterday.

On the first day of a hearing into the agency's proposed decision to grant a licence for the 9.5 million tonne facility, Michael O'Donnell, for opponents of the project, questioned whether Dr Kelly had played down the importance of a regional aquifer - an underground water source - at the site.

Mr O'Donnell said it appeared there was a letter signed by Dr Kelly in which she told the European Parliament petitions committee that every square metre of the Republic was situated on an aquifer.

The letter from Dr Kelly to Marcin Libicki, of the EU Parliament committee on petitions, was then circulated, and Mr O'Donnell noted Dr Kelly had responded to the committee's concerns about the aquifer to the effect:

"The basic fact of the matter in Ireland is that every square metre of the national territory is underlain by an aquifer as defined in national legislation."

Mr O'Donnell said that his clients - the Nevitt Lusk Action Group - would be greatly disturbed by the director-general of the EPA, the most senior person in the agency, "saying something which would appear to be wildly inaccurate and incorrect".

He also asked that the "documentation that grounds the statement of Dr Kelly be made available to raise at a later stage".

In her letter to the petitions committee Dr Kelly said that the agency had been mindful of the risk to groundwater and had approached the assessment of the landfill proposal "from a precautionary viewpoint".

The proposal had been evaluated against the requirements of four EU directives including those on Landfill; Water Framework; Waste; Environmental Impact Assessment and Groundwater, as well as national technical standards and groundwater protection schemes.

The aquifer - essentially an underground water source - is central to the arguments put forward by the Nevitt Lusk Action Group.

Group spokesman Shay Lunny said that 55 per cent of the State's vegetables came from the area and were nourished and washed in water from the aquifer before being sold in major food chains.

He said Fingal County Council's plans for the 140-acre landfill on a 600-acre site had not adequately considered the presence of the aquifer and there were fears that the landfill would cause pollution to the water source.

He said the aquifer was an extremely valuable resource but had never been adequately examined, while at the same time Dublin local authorities were planning to extract water from the Shannon.

The hearing which is to continue this morning is expected to last between 10 and up to 14 days, and feature submissions from thermal treatment company Indaver, waste collectors Greenstar, as well as a number of politicians including Minister for State with Responsibility for Food and Horticulture Trevor Sergeant.

Tim O'Brien
Irish Times

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