Multiple environmental law breaches at Cork landfill site

Serious breaches of environmental regulations have been found at a Co Cork landfill site, where inspectors discovered crucial IT equipment for monitoring gases and leachate had been out of action for two years.

Inspectors from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also found that the gas flare used to burn off excess gas had been out of order, sometimes for weeks at a time, that carbon dioxide and methane emissions at the site exceeded permitted limits, and that a leachate storage lagoon had not been tested for wear and tear for 10 years.

No facility manager was on site at the Cork County Council owned East Cork Landfill at Rossmore, Carrigtwohill, for most of the week either.

In its report, the EPA said: “The facility manager is only present on site 2-3 days each week. The inspector is of the view that this arrangement has contributed to the poor level of compliance.”

The multiple breaches observed during the inspection late last year also included improper storage of waste paints and oil at the adjoining civic amenity facility, causing spills and a risk of water contamination.

The most serious breaches, however, stemmed from the breakdown of the SCADA computer system in November 2016. The system, described by the EPA as “critical control equipment”, is used to gather data from sensors, valves, pumps, and other equipment throughout the site so that operators can monitor potentially hazardous leachate levels and gas output.

Both the failure to have the system in operation and to report the malfunction to the EPA are breaches of regulations.

East Cork Landfill is now on the EPA’s priority list for enforcement proceedings. Cork County Council said it was preparing a detailed response to the issues raised.

The latest enforcement priority list also includes two agrifood producers, a chemical company, and a packaging firm. Arrow Group’s plant in Kildare, which operates under the Dawn Farms brand, has been the subject of multiple complaints about odours and noise and has been prosecuted by the EPA in the past.

Most of the odours detected in the most recent inspections were found to be below permitted limits, but the company remains targeted for enforcement because of an accumulation of breaches over the past year.

Chicken producer Western Brand, in Ballyhaunis, is facing enforcement for breaches including exceeding effluent limits and failure to properly manage waste and animal byproducts — namely chicken feathers — that were found blowing around the yard.

Donegal packaging firm Euroflex is on the list for poor waste management practices and the Arran Chemical Company in Athlone for groundwater contamination and air emissions breaches.

The EPA publishes a priority list quarterly, targeting the worst or most urgent offenders among the industrial and waste management sites it licences. The five on the latest list account for 21% of all current complaints from the public.

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