Irish Cement fined €4,000 for dust spill over homes, cars and gardens in Limerick

Environmental Protection Agency received 21 complaints after leak, court told

Irish Cement had previous convictions arising out of two previous prosecutions for similar breaches, at Limerick District Court, in June 2017, and July 2018, the court heard. File photograph: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Irish Cement had previous convictions arising out of two previous prosecutions for similar breaches, at Limerick District Court, in June 2017, and July 2018, the court heard. File photograph: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

 

Irish Cement has been fined €4,000 for breaching terms of its industrial emissions licence, when thick “glue-like” dust spilled from its Co Limerick production plant, causing damage to nearby homes, cars and gardens.

The company pleaded guilty at Limerick District Court to one count of breaching terms of the license at its plant at Castlemungret, on December 3rd, 2017.

Solicitor Maeve Larkin, prosecuting on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told the court the dust involved was “gritty...not everyday dust”.

After the company had unsuccessfully attempted to clear a build-up of dust in the kiln, a significant amount of it leaked out and into the air, falling on local neighbourhoods.

The EPA received 21 complaints from local residents after the dust fell on their cars, homes, and gardens. Six of the complaints referred to residents health concerns, two of which related to people with asthma.

The court heard that “frustrated” residents in statements to the EPA referred to the “glue-like” dust.

The dust that leaked from the kiln “impacted the environment outside the environs of the plant, and caused damage to property”, she said.

“Therefore, this is, ‘environmental pollution’, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency Act,” she added.

Irish Cement has three previous convictions for similar breaches of its industrial license. Two were in July 2018, and one was recorded in 2007.

Deborah Spence, solicitor for Irish Cement, said the December 3rd spillage was “a once off, very unusual occurrence”.

“It was unfortunate it did occur...There was a build up of dust causing a spillage to occur and a breakage of an air seal,” she added.

Judge Marian O’Leary, remarked: “This is the third time people in the area have suffered...three times that we know off.”

She imposed the maximum fine of €4,000 to be made payable to the EPA which holds responsibility for the granting of industrial emissions licenses.