Investigation into public complaints of dust nuisance in the Mungret and Raheen areas of Limerick City - Status Update No. 2

Date released: May 31 2017

Joint Statement No 2 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Limerick City & County Council and Health Service Executive Mid-West

Notification of dust deposition problem in residential areas of west Limerick City

Since the end of March 2017, the EPA has received a significant number of complaints about dust deposition from residents of the Mungret and Raheen areas of Limerick City. Complaints have also been received by Limerick City & County Council and the Health Service Executive (HSE) Mid-West. The complaints have described thick dust deposited on cars, roofs and windows, solar panels and garden furniture. Complainants have all stated their belief that the source of the dust was likely to be the nearby Irish Cement plant, which operates under an EPA Licence, P0029-03.

Investigation of the dust issue

  • Since the first complaints were made, EPA personnel have been investigating the issue and have convened an inter-agency group involving Limerick City and County Council and the Health Service Executive (HSE) to ensure integrated oversight of the investigation.
  • Samples of dust from cars belonging to a number of complainants have been analysed and compared to samples of materials from the Irish Cement facility. Initial sample analysis results indicate that the dust deposits matched material from the Irish Cement facility. Analysis of recent samples indicated that, while the dust deposits again matched material from the Irish Cement facility, a significant quantity of pollen was also present in these samples.
  • The EPA and Limerick City & County Council have assessed the extent to which other potential discrete sources of dust may exist in the area. To date, no such source has been identified as being a likely contributor to the issue. Diffuse ambient dust was, and continues to be, a significant component in dust deposits, particularly during the extended period of dry weather in March and April 2017 when much of the country experienced unusual amounts of diffuse dust deposition.
  • The EPA has initiated a formal Compliance Investigation into the management and control of dust at the Irish Cement facility. As part of this investigation, the company is conducting a detailed “Root and Branch” review of the material and product handling infrastructure and processes over the entire site to identify any potential defects. Any defects or failures are to be rectified immediately on discovery.
  • A second compliance investigation has been initiated into complaints of excessive noise from the Irish Cement facility.
  • The EPA carried out a site inspection at the Irish Cement facility on Monday 22 May 2017 to assess the progress made by Irish Cement to date in complying with the corrective actions imposed under the compliance investigations. The inspection team found that progress is being made in relation to each corrective action. The EPA expects a final report on the ‘root and branch’ analysis of activities on-site to be submitted by the licensee by 31 May 2017.
  • Irish Cement have commenced a series of engineering and procedural measures to control potential sources of “fugitive” dust emissions including material stockpiles, conveyor belts, yard areas and roadways.
  • Irish Cement indicated that they had undertaken to respond to each complaint of dust they received and to seek to visit complainants where possible. To date, Irish Cement personnel have visited a number of complainants and have taken samples of dust for analysis.

Public health

Health advice based on sampling results to date and surveillance of healthcare usage confirms that exposure to the dust may cause respiratory , eye and skin irritation but does not pose a serious health risk in the short term. In relation to possible health implications, HSE Mid-West has continued to liaise with general practitioners and the local hospital emergency department. To date, no unusual patterns of ill health have been identified. HSE Mid-West will continue to monitor the situation in the coming weeks.

Additional monitoring

Through April and May 2017, EPA and Limerick City & County Council established a network of dust monitoring units in four locations in Limerick City that are providing information on dust levels for assessment against air quality standards and will support ongoing health risk assessment by the HSE. The first of these units was located in the Mungret / Raheen area, and the remaining units were installed in mid May at O’Connell Street, Castletroy and a separate location in Mungret. Results obtained to date have been fully compliant with the statutory limit values set for the protection of human health. The results indicated that dust levels were highest in O’Connell Street, with lower and broadly similar results from the Castletroy and Mungret areas. Limerick City & County Council intend that the monitoring network will shortly be upgraded to provide online real-time air quality information for Limerick.

Conclusion

The EPA, in coordination with the other Agencies, will continue the investigation into the dust issue in west Limerick City. Where activities or emissions from EPA licenced sites are found to be responsible for or contributing to the issue, the EPA will instruct those licensees to take comprehensive corrective and preventative actions to prevent recurrence. Further enforcement action will be considered by the EPA in line with its enforcement policy. The EPA welcomes and values information on potential environmental pollution or nuisance from the public. Members of the public are encouraged to contact the EPA in the event of experiencing dust or other nuisance from EPA licensed facilities, either through the EPA website (https://lema.epa.ie/complaints) or at 053-916 0600 (24 hours).