Sawmills firm criticised over environmental breaches
Monday, 3rd October, 2005
A sawmills company in Offaly is facing legal action from the state environmental watchdog if it does not address pollution concerns.
T&J Standish Sawmills, which employs around 50 people at its plant in Leap, was found to be in breach of its integrated pollution control (IPC) licence during an inspection on September 26.
The Environmental Protection Agency said it was extremely concerned about the situation.
"Failure to comply with the requirements specified in this notification of non-compliance will leave the agency no option but to consider legal action in regard to this matter," it said in its report.
T&J Standish Sawmills allowed preservatives from freshly treated timber to drip onto the ground in contravention of the company's licence. No notification was given to the EPA about the failure of a pump at the plant and the subsequent overflowing of preservatives into a yard.
The EPA's inspector found that three times the permitted level of water had flowed through a filtration unit designed to remove contaminants from the plant. And in the fourth breach of the company's IPC licence, there was no attempt to separate treated timber waste from untreated timber waste or to store it under cover.
The EPA has previously successfully prosecuted the company for causing chromium pollution in a local river. A second prosecution for breaches of its IPC licence was postponed in Roscrea District Court last month because a witness for the company could not appear.
The Aghanacon Concerned Residents' Association, which represents people in the local area, said the EPA seemed to have no mechanism to force the company to comply with its IPC licence.
"There is no local input. The residents here have no confidence in the EPA," said a spokesman.
The EPA has decided to grant T&J Standish Sawmills a new IPC licence, subject to a process of public consultation.
A spokeswoman said the new licence included stringent conditions. She said the EPA was determined to vigorously enforce the remediation programme already agreed with the company.
"The primary concern of the EPA is, and will continue to be, the protection of health and the environment in this locality," she said.
The managing director of T&J Standish, Tom Standish, insisted his company was complying with the latest EPA inspection report.
"Things are being done 100% right. The EPA are on about things that we have dealt with over and over again," he said.
Minerex Environmental director Cecil Shine, who is employed as a consultant by T&J Standish, said the first two breaches of the IPC licence would not happen again.
He said the company disagreed with the EPA's assessment that it had exceeded its quota for pumping water through its filter, as well as its assessment in relation to the storage of treated and untreated timber.
Mr Shine said the company was working hard to overcome the problems but was being limited by the delay in granting its planning application, which now dates back a year and a half. Ends
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