Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Smog Levels.

57.

asked the Minister for the Environment the action which is being taken to eliminate the problem of smog in Dublin following his recent meeting with officials from Dublin Corporation and Dublin County Council.

34.

asked the Minister for the Environment the total number of days on which smog levels in Dublin have breached EC limits so far this year; the number of locations in which the levels have been breached; in view of the deteriorating situation and the increasing public concern about air pollution, the emergency measures he intends to take to deal with the situation; if he will outline the results of his discussions with officials of Dublin City Council and Dublin County Council of 22 November 1988; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

87.

asked the Minister for the Environment the number of breaches of EC limits on smog at the corporation monitoring stations in each year since 1980.

88.

asked the Minister for the Environment in respect of each winter since 1980 and to the current date this winter (a) the number of observations in which the smog level in Dublin exceeded the level of 250 mg per cubic foot at the corporation monitoring stations and (b) the number of days on which any such observations occurred at any station.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57, 34, 87 and 88 together.

The recent smog episode in Dublin has already given rise to breaches of the EC and national air quality standards for smoke. Breaches of the daily value for more than three consecutive days were recorded in Ballyfermot, Cabra, Crumlin, Rathmines, Mountjoy Square, Quarryvale and Neilstown. Breaches of the 98 percentile, i.e. where eight or more breaches of the daily value have occurred were recorded in Ballyfermot, Cabra, Crumlin and Neilstown. These will be notified to the EC Commission as required when results for the year ending March 1989 are available. Breaches for the years since 1983-84 when the directive came into force are set out in a table which will be circulated with the Official Report.

Measures under the Air Pollution Act, 1987 to deal with the problem in Dublin are under way and, following my recent discussions with senior officials of Dublin Corporation and Dublin County Council, the special control area order programme is being accelerated. Other measures already taken or in hands are: new local authority houses in built up areas of the city and county to be so designed and equipped as to minimise smoke emissions; a programme will be developed for converting existing local authority houses and flats in these areas to smokeless heating systems through the remedial works scheme or otherwise; new house grants in these areas will be confined to houses with smokeless heating systems; a directive is being issued to planning authorities indicating that heating arrangements in new and substantially reconstructed domestic and other development in built up areas where there are smoke problems should be non polluting and a publicity and information campaign to encourage the use of smokeless fuels and heating systems is being prepared.

In addition, I have had discussions with representatives of various sectors of the fuel industry resulting directly in a reduction in the price of smokeless coal and assurances of greatly increased availability and promotion of smokeless fuels generally. Arrangements for a smog alert system have been agreed. I am considering what further measures may be necessary to deal with the problem and hope to be able to make a further statement in the immediate future.

Station exceeding

98% ile of daily means for the year

Limit value for more than 3 consecutive days

Median of daily mean values (year)

Median of daily mean values (winter)

(250 ug/m³)

(250 ug/m³)

(80 ug/m³)

(130 ug/m³)

1983-84

Ballyfermot

Ballyfermot

Nil

Ballyfermot

Cabra

Cornmarket

Dame Street

Rathmines

1984-85

Ballyfermot

Ballyfermot

Cabra

Cornmarket

Cornmarket

East Wall

Mountjoy Square

Mountjoy Square

Nil

Nil

Rathmines

Rathmines

1985-86

Ballyfermot

Ballyfermot

Nil

Ballyfermot

Crumlin

Rathmines

1986-87

Ballyfermot

Ballyfermot

Ballyfermot

Ballyfermot

Bluebell

Cabra

Clondalkin

Herbert St.

Herbert St.

Mountjoy Square

Mountjoy Square

Old County Road

Old County Road

South Quays

1987-88

Ballyfermot

Ballyfermot

Nil

Ballyfermot

Bluebell

Cabra

Crumlin

Crumlin

Herbert St.

Following his meeting with officials of Dublin County Council and Dublin Corporation the Minister indicated that there would be some major developments. What additional special controlled areas orders are going to be made? The only change in the position since the Minister's meeting is that the special control area that is now in existence in Ballyfermot may be extended to an additional portion of Ballyfermot. No substantive action of any nature has been taken to provide either smoke free zones or smoke control areas other than the indication that it might be extended to another portion of Ballyfermot. What other areas will it apply to, and when will the necessary action be taken?

The question about the making of the order is a matter for the local authority under the legislation. At the meeting I had with the officials of the two authorities we discussed all the aspects the Deputy referred to. I cannot give exact dates as to when the order may be made or modified as it is for another authority to take the initial steps and there will have to be submissions and publications, notices and possible inquiries or whatever. I can say that the authorities involved will be considering the next area in Ballyfermot, about 982 houses and that it is their intention to be able to proceed with that matter before Christmas, with the proviso that I have already put in there. A further 2,000 houses is contemplated in this regard in Ballyfermot and it is expected that that matter can be expedited and cleared before the middle of January. Following on that Cabra and Crumlin will be considered but it is for the authorities to decide on the matter. I have powers to give directions but good progress is being made. The next areas to be dealt with will be Mountjoy, Rathmines and then Neilstown which is a big centre of 3,500 houses. That order will have to be made by the county council and they are pursuing that actively right now.

Will the Minister acknowledge that on the basis of what he is telling the House now, there is little prospect that orders will be made for any area other than the Ballyfermot area, this side of 1990? Will the Minister use his directional powers to ensure, at the minimum, that immediate steps are taken to provide special control areas in Cabra, Crumlin, Rathmines, Mountjoy Square, Neilstown and other areas mentioned? Will the Minister indicate in what way his discussions with the council and corporation officials changed the situation from what it was before those discussions took place and if additional action is being taken by either local authority to tackle this problem?

Action is being taken and the local authorities involved have indicated not just their willingness to pursue the matter but to expedite the question of making orders. I at least would expect Deputy Shatter to understand that the provisions of the legislation should be applied and that if delays apply to the making and confirming of orders these delays are absolutely necessitated by the provisions of the legislation. It is reasonable that when an order that affects the lives of all the individuals encompassed by it is being made, the steps should be properly taken. One can speed them up but they should at least be taken properly. Once the order is made it is appropriate that it be published and it is proper that individuals, groups or organisations, should get the opportunity to object if they wish, not forgetting that the order that is now being pursued in Ballyfermot was subject to 12 objections, some of which came from the residents who were representing themselves. It is right in a democracy that if people have an objection they should be allowed to put it. Once the objections have substance I am bound by the legislation to hold inquiries. So far as the first area order is concerned steps were taken expeditiously but naturally there are delays attached to getting things organised, hearing the evidence——

It has now been going on for two winters.

I am sorry Minister. I must advise the House——

It is not so.

(Interruptions.)

Please, Deputy Keating.

I apologise, a Cheann Comhairle.

The Chair has an obligation to try to dispose of these four priority questions within the prescribed time which ceases at 3.45 p.m. We are making no progress. I want the co-operation of the House to deal with all the questions; if not, I will go on to other business.

To summarise, steps are being taken in accordance with the legislation and I am pressing the matter——

If necessary, bring in emergency legislation.

Let us have Question No. 58 please.

If necessary the Minister could do that and he would get the support of Members of the House in doing it.

That is a different matter.

An inordinate amount of time has been devoted to your question, Deputy.

I do not wish to pursue this matter any further but——

Question No. 58.

Smog has been around a long time and I am the first person who tried to do something about it.

What the Minister is doing is painfully ineffective.

Just like I solved the problem of fish kills, I will solve this, too.