THE ESB’s power station at Moneypoint in Co Clare has admitted that it breached its pollution control licence 17 times so far this year and that the incidents were not reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The breaches, which relate to smoke emissions from one of the plant’s chimney stacks, only came to light after the EPA undertook a site inspection at the plant following two reported incidents in July.
On July 4, residents reported that ash from a storage pit had blown onto their properties, while on July 11, locals complained of seeing black smoke emitting from the station for a prolonged period of time.
Following a site visit in July, the EPA wrote to ESB Moneypoint on August 4 advising them that they had been found to be in breach of the conditions of its Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) licence and gave the company two weeks to provide a schedule of measures aimed at rectifying problems at the plant.
In its report to the EPA on August 18, the ESB confirmed there were two incidents since the recent audit where emissions exceeded permitted levels.
The ESB admitted that the July 11 event lasted for four hours, in excess of the one hour permitted, while the firm has also confirmed other similar events, one lasting almost eight hours, were also recorded but not reported to the EPA.
However, as the ESB prepares to meet residents this week, local woman Eve Browne has expressed surprise at the number of breaches concerning smoke emissions.
“We have seen this happen a number of times and we don’t sit there counting the hours but the July 11 incident was particularly bad. Since the EPA visited the plant, we now know that there were 17 such incidents lasting between four and eight hours.
“We are very surprised to learn this and we wonder would we ever have known if the EPA had not asked for an audit of incidents,” Ms Browne said.
“It’s obvious we have been underestimating the seriousness of the problem but we now have a commitment from Moneypoint management on the establishment of a residents’ community forum which is to convene its first meeting on Thursday. This will give us a chance to ask many questions and hopefully get concrete answers but there does seem to be a big change in attitude in Moneypoint now. While it is no more than we locals deserve, it is welcome, but the ESB needs to take responsibility for its actions,” Ms Browne added.
The ESB said: “During a start-up cycle, smoke will be visible for a period and is provided for in the site licence. ESB Moneypoint endeavours to minimise the period of visible smoke emissions to ensure we comply with the conditions set out in the licence. ESB Moneypoint is currently investigating measures to improve the situation. ESB and the EPA are currently in discussion on the management of these issues.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved