Masonite gets time to solve problem of odours


A District Court judge yesterday found the facts proven in a case in which the Environmental Protection Agency took action against the Masonite plant on the banks of the Shannon, near Drumsna, Co Leitrim.

However, the company gave an undertaking that the problem of strong odours arising from the use of linseed oil was being tackled with technological adjustments which would be effective from early next month.

Mr Barry Doyle, solicitor, representing the EPA, told Judge Bernard Brennan in Carrick-on Shannon District Court that, days after operations began at Masonite, there were complaints by residents of chest problems and watery eyes.

"Animals on local farms," he said, "were reported as being restless when the smell was there. People would stop working and close their windows at home."

Mr Doyle said Masonite had co-operated with the EPA investigation, "and we are satisfied that the new form of activity should greatly improve the situation". "The only way to deal with these matters is not to impose punitive measures but to allow these companies time to make the necessary improvements," Judge Brennan said.

"Then everybody is happy and you impose a fine which simply marks the fact that the company was in breach."

The judge heard sworn evidence by Mr Jim Hoey, managing director of Masonite Ireland, that the company was taking steps to ensure that it would no longer be in breach of its Integrated Pollution Control licence, granted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA took court action following complaints by residents from within a wide radius of the plant that an odour coming from it was adversely affecting their quality of life.

It was explained that the odour came from linseed oil used in manufacturing door facings.

Mr Greg Glynn, solicitor, representing Masonite, asked that the company's managing director, Mr Jim Hoey, be heard.

Mr Hoey said the company had considered masking the odour or installing an "end-of-pipe solution", but had opted finally for "a new resin technology, and from November, we will not any longer be using this material [linseed oil]".

"Even as we speak we're changing the plant and we're two months ahead of the schedule agreed with the EPA," Mr Hoey said.

Citing other cases of such breaches by companies within his jurisdiction in Rooskey, Ballaghadereen and Ballyhaunis, Judge Brennan said: "It's been my practice over a long period of years to allow these companies to make improvements."

He ruled that the facts in the case were proven, and adjourned the matter to Carrick-on-Shannon District Court on December 9th.

Following the hearing, Mr Hoey said: "The technology that the Irish mill has developed will be transferred to other Masonite facilities in the US. This odour issue is now firmly in the past and . . . local residents will not be inconvenienced by it any longer."

Masonite began manufacturing at Drumsna in May of last year.