EPA seeks facts on Meath waste plant

Mon, May 21, 2012, 01:00

THE ENVIRONMENTAL Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking further information on plans by waste management company Panda to develop a mechanical and biological treatment facility near Newgrange, Co Meath.

The agency wants further details on dioxin emissions from a proposed eight-megawatt biomass furnace on the five-acre site as well as information about the risks of fire and explosion, and contamination of the environment by potentially harmful bacteria.

The EPA also wants to know more about Panda’s animal byproduct processing permit from the Department of Agriculture, emissions of hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride, and whether an “appropriate assessment” under the EU habitats directive is needed.

Local residents objecting to the plant being licensed have welcomed the agency’s request for further information, but say it “does not go nearly far enough”, according to Richard Hunter, chairman of the Boyne Valley Awareness Group, which is co-ordinating their objections.

“For example, it did not adequately address the expected obnoxious odours or expected massive increase in heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) transporting waste to and from the enormous biogas waste plant ,” Mr Hunter said.

“Nor did it adequately address concerns residents have regarding the incineration of waste by the proposed eight-megawatt furnace,” Mr Hunter said, adding that the plant would be able to process up to 250,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste a year.

He noted that the plant would be about 4km southwest of Newgrange, close to the archeological and heritage “buffer zone” for the area – about the same distance as the Slane bypass, which was rejected recently by An Bord Pleanála.

Mr Hunter claims the development “has been largely progressed in secrecy”. He said: “If this gas power plant or biomass furnace is built, the large facilities and chimney will be visible from the Newgrange special buffer zone and will pose a real threat to the Unesco world heritage status accredited to Newgrange.”

The only objection made during the planning phase was from Inland Fisheries Ireland, a State agency.

However, more than 200 objections or submissions have been made to the EPA by parties that include Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Department of Arts and Heritage.

Mr Hunter complained that Meath County Council had “waived” any requirement for a traffic impact study, even though the biogas plant is expected to generate up to 30,000 HGV journeys a year – or about 100 a day – a few kilometres from the accident blackspot of Slane.

He said the plant’s waste-water tanks would be beside the Roughgrange river, a tributary of the Boyne.

“Water from the Boyne is extracted at Roughgrange, Donore, and supplies drinking water to Drogheda and large parts of east Meath,” he said.

Panda has been operating at the site since 1990. Its managing director Eamon Waters said: “We have no problem with people objecting” but “it would be nice” if they “studied what it was all about”.

The company got its first EPA licence in 2001 and has expanded the Co Meath facility over the past 10 years.

Referring to the latest application, he said: “There is no incinerator no increase in traffic as we are not looking to increase the tonnage.”

Mr Waters said the proposal involved the addition of new technology that would dry waste and turn it into “top quality SRF ”.

The proposed anaerobic digester and dryer system “complies fully” with best available technology, he said.

Panda, which has been to the fore in opposing the Poolbeg incinerator in Dublin, runs six EPA-licensed sites and uses leading environmental consultants.

“We have to go through the various procedures to obtain planning and licensing – it is very far away from secrecy,” said Mr Waters.