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Irish Times - 17-08-05
New spillage report process at EPA
Barry Roche, Southern Correspondent

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has introduced a new approach to reporting chemical spillages, and yesterday posted details of planned new procedures on its website and details of an incident in Cork last weekend.

It also said it was currently reviewing "procedures for communication of incidents to the public".

"As and from 15th August, 2005 the News Centre section of the EPA website will contain details of any new incidents reported to the EPA and requiring investigation," it confirmed.

In addition, the agency yesterday gave details on the latest incident at the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) plant in Cork. It has launched an investigation into a second caustic substance spillage at a pharmachem plant in the Cork Harbour area, following an incident over the weekend.

It posted details on its website of the latest incident. Some 400 litres of a caustic solution were spilled during a loading operation at the GSK plant at Currabinny, Carrigaline, at 11.30pm on August 13th. The agency said "no caustic solution was discharged to the estuary as it was retained in the site retention pond, designed for that purpose". EPA inspectors were sent to the site on Monday.

The agency received notification of the spillage from GSK when it faxed details to its office in Cork over the weekend and the fax was picked up by staff on Monday morning.

A GSK spokesman said there had been a minor spillage of a caustic solution but it was contained and the company would be carrying out its own investigation as well as co-operating with the EPA. It is the second reported incident at the GSK facility in the past six months and follows the discovery of mislabelled pipework at the plant last April.

And it is the second incident involving a caustic substance in Cork in the past six weeks, following the accidental spillage of 255 tonnes of caustic soda into Cork Harbour as a ship was unloading its cargo of caustic soda at the ADM plant in Ringaskiddy in early July.

ADM reported the incident - which also happened over a weekend - to the EPA on the agency's non-urgent incident phone line, while it also sent a fax to the EPA's Cork office which wasn't picked up until the following Monday morning.

The incident led to criticism of the EPA's response and the fact it didn't notify the public until three weeks later, when local Fine Gael councillor Tim Lombard learned of the ADM spillage.

EPA deputy director general Dr Padraic Larkin attended a public meeting in Cork on August 3rd organised by the Green Party, at which he promised the EPA would review its procedures for informing the public of incidents.

Cllr Tim Lombard welcomed the announcement but said the latest incident at GSK raised more questions about the EPA's ability to police the pharmachem industry in Cork Harbour.

"It's bizarre to think that just a month after an incident at ADM, we now have another incident at GSK - it's all down to who is policing the pharmachem factories. Is it the companies themselves or is it the EPA?"

Cork South Central Green Party TD Dan Boyle also welcomed the new approach by the EPA to informing the public but added that "changes remain to be made in the structure, the philosophy and the resources available to the EPA".

© The Irish Times


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