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Irish Times Editorial - 09/01/06
Burning issue

Given the insatiable quest for more of everything, it should hardly have come as a surprise that Indaver Ireland Ltd is seeking to increase the capacity of its controversial waste incinerator planned for Carranstown, Co Meath.

As long ago as November 2000, when the Belgian-owned company first sought planning permission for a facility capable of burning 150,000 tonnes of municipal waste, there were widespread suspicions locally that this was merely a "foot in the door". And so it has turned out. After a five-year campaign to secure both planning permission and an integrated pollution control licence, Indaver wants to increase the incinerator's capacity by a third, to burn up to 200,000 tonnes of waste per annum, generating enough electricity to power 19,000 homes.

The company maintains that this is in line with the proposed replacement waste management plan for the North East Region, covering counties Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan, which was published last September. However, its opponents insist that the larger incinerator now envisaged would allow Indaver to "import" waste from other regions, notably Dublin, for treatment at the Carranstown site. This runs counter to the EU's "proximity principle", which lays down that all forms of waste must be treated as close as possible to its source - a point repeatedly made by Indaver itself in defence of the equally controversial hazardous waste incinerator planned for Ringaskiddy, in Cork Harbour.

There is also evidence, reported in this newspaper last Thursday, that the company strongly lobbied the Department of the Environment in 2004 to have this rule changed - and that the lobbying paid off. Last May, in the first policy direction issued under Section 60 of the 1996 Waste Management Act, Minister for the Environment Dick Roche introduced a more liberal regime "intended to address concerns that relevant regulatory authorities were taking an unnecessarily restrictive approach in regard to the inter-regional movement of waste". Interestingly, this change of policy was not even highlighted in the press release at the time as one of the five "key features" of the policy direction, all of which related to illegal waste activities; when the Government caves in to vested interests, it tends to do so discreetly.

However irrational the waste management regions may be (Kildare, Wicklow and Donegal each constitute a "region" in this regard), the proximity principle must still apply. Neither will the people of Carranstown be reassured by Indaver's insistence that there "will be no negative impact on public health or the environment"; twice over a period of six months in 2002-2003, the company was forced to close its static kiln facility in Antwerp after authorities discovered dioxin emissions up to 280 times higher than the levels permitted by its licence.

© The Irish Times


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