Moneypoint plant breached pollution licence on 17 occasions, admits ESB


THE ESB has admitted the coal -fired power station at Moneypoint in Co Clare breached its pollution control licence 17 times so far this year and 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, came to light after the agency undertook a site inspection following two reported incidents in early July.

On July 4th, local residents reported that ash from a storage pit had blown on to their properties. One week later, on July 11th, locals complained of seeing black smoke emitting from the station for a prolonged period.

Following a site visit in July, the agency wrote to ESB Moneypoint on August 4th advising them they had been found in breach of the conditions of its integrated pollution prevention control licence and gave the company two weeks to provide a schedule of measures aimed at rectifying problems.

In its report to the agency on August 18th, the ESB confirmed there were two incidents since the recent audit where emissions exceeded permitted levels. Both were reported to the EPA.

Detailing previous incidents, the ESB admitted the July 11th event lasted for four hours, far in excess of the one hour permitted. It also confirmed several other similar events – one lasting almost eight hours – were recorded but not reported to the agency.

In the report, the ESB states: “At 17.15 on 11th of July, black smoke was emitted from unit two for duration of four hours approximately. There was also evidence of similar incidents also in excess of the one-hour limit. These incidents were not reported to the EPA.” The report adds: “There were 17 instances in which a particulates incidents corresponding to a black smoke event of in excess of one hour took place.”

The ESB document details each of the incidents from January 1st to July 31st, 2010, where there were six “visible smoke exceedences” from unit one boiler; seven from boiler two and a further four from boiler three. These ranged in length from one hour and six minutes on January 9th to the longest event, seven hours and 52 minutes, on May 4th.

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 11th incident was particularly bad. Since the EPA visited the plant, we now know that there were 17 such incidents, some 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.”