Enva says it strongly denies claims that emissions from its plant are harmful, stressing that it regularly carries out monitoring.
Senator John Whelan has accused the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of “colluding with the company in what is a cover-up of emitting in what are, in some instances, carcinogenic emissions into the atmosphere and waste water in the vicinity”.
Under parliamentary privilege in the Seanad last Thursday, Whelan blamed “light touch” and “lax” regulation by the EPA, depicting an “Erin Brockovich scenario, where people are living in fear, living in silence”.
Enva dismissed Whelan’s allegations as “unfounded” while the Environmental Protection Agency said that the company has been “largely compliant” with its licence and insisted that there are no health risks to residents.
In a statement the EPA said is satisfied that the activities undertaken on the site “do not pose a risk to local residents, to health, or to the environment”.
The emissions from the plant have been described by those in the area as gassy, oily or sewer like.
In response to the concerns raised, a statement from Enva said: “We regularly carry out monitoring at our Portlaoise site to ensure our staff are not exposed to levels of substances that would impact their health or the health of anyone living in the surrounding area. As part of our ongoing environmental management processes, Enva routinely uses international environmental consultants RPS to conduct additional monitoring and to assist us in dealing with any queries raised by the EPA”.
However, many people living in the area say the smell is nauseating and have raised concerns. Michael Browne who worked with CIE for 11 years in Portlaoise, until 2009, described the smell as “absolutely disgusting”.
“It was bad when I was up there. I don’t know how I would describe it– it was nauseating. It used to give me a headache and you would get sick,” he said.
“I used to keep a diary and would keep a record of the smell. It could be once or twice a week...My office was upstairs in a porta cabin and some days it was fairly bad,” he said. Read more pages 6&7.