Plans by Irish Cement to use "lower carbon alternative fuels" at its Limerick plant have been condemned as "madness" by Limerick TD Willie O'Dea.
The Fianna Fáil TD told an An Bord Pleanála oral hearing in the South Court Hotel, Limerick he had never come across an issue that created as “much fear and loathing in Limerick City” in three decades of public representation.
He said he found it hard to believe that “Irish Cement are the great protectors of the environment” following evidence it presented earlier in the morning.
He told the oral hearing a number of states in the US were introducing legislation to ban the burning of tyres in similar facilities.
All the public representatives who addressed the hearing on Wednesday afternoon expressed grave concern or opposition to the proposed development.
Senator Kieran O’Donnell requested an adournment to allow the EPA to give evidence and claimed their absence from the hearing was akin to “Hamlet without the prince”.
Councillor Cian Prendeville predicted if this development is approved, it may result in "Rossport-style civil disobedience protests" in Limerick City.
Former housing minister Jan O’Sullivan expressed concern the new development would result in traffic coming from different directions compared to just one route the Foynes to Limerick road for the existing plant.
However, Irish Cement communications manager Brian Gilmore said the existing cement factory in Limerick is not being altered in any way to become an incinerator.
Mr Gilmore claimed there are a number of key differences between a cement factory and an incinerator.
“The operating temperature is significantly higher insider a cement kiln. This is a fundamental feature of the process to allow the ‘melting’ of the raw materials.
“The manufacturing process and higher temperatures of the cement kiln results in no ash being produced.
“The chemistry of all the inputs both raw materials and fuels is known in the cement factory, so all the fuels, both fossil and alternative are tested to ensure they meet the agreed specifications for the production of high quality cement,” he stated.
Mr Gilmore outlined the factory cannot consume 90,000 tonnes of tyres annually as the calculated heat value of this quality of tyres would far exceed the required heat input at maximum cement production.
Irish Cement Limited has obtained planning permission from Limerick City and County Council for a 10-year permission for development to allow for the replacement of fossil fuels through the introduction of "lower carbon alternative fuels" and to allow for the use of alternative raw materials in their plant.
This application, which has been appealed to An Board Pleanála by LAP, resident associations and a number of other parties, seeks permission for the use of up to 90,000 tonnes annually of alternative fuels.
According to Irish Cement, this will reduce the demand for fossil fuels by up to 55,000 tonnes per annum.
Experts from Irish Cement and Limerick City and Council officials gave evidence during the first day of the hearing, which is expected to last four days.
Dermot Flanagan, BL, on behalf of Limerick City and Council, said the authority believed its planning approval, which was subject to 16 conditions, was correct in terms of its rationale, which was supported by the plant’s existing use and was in compliance with a number of local and national development plans and policies.
A separate application for a revised emissions licence to facilitate the new development has been submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Dr Martin Hogan, a registered specialist in occupational medicine with the Irish Medical Council, told the hearing he had no “concerns regarding human health”, assuming effective transport and storage of waste.
He said weight of evidence as is clearly demonstrated in a recent literature review is that “the use of alternative fuels does not have adverse effects on emissions or on human health.
He stressed health-based standards are present to “protect the vulnerable not the robust”.
Site environmental manager, Seamus Breen outlined the company needs energy to make clinker, which when ground with gypsum makes cement.
Mr Breen explained it is proposed to substitute fossil fuel with alternative fuel so as to provide the required energy to make clinker.
He said the environmental and sustainability benefits of this project would be a reduction in CO2 emissions from the cement factory, less reliance on the use of fossil fuels and increase the use of alternative raw materials.
Mr Breen said there were two accidental dust emissions from the site in 2006 and 2015. “No aspect of the proposed development will increase the likelihood of such incidents or cause such incidents to recur.”
Last April and May, Irish Cement and the EPA received dust complaints
Mr Breen stated the company investigated these complaints and “did not find any
operational source of dust similar to the previous accidental dust emissions in 2006 and 2015”.
Mr Breen claimed the source of dust was identified as a wind borne “fugitive emissions from Irish Cement’s site roads and paths but not from its cement