Written Answers. - Hazardous Waste.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

188 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on the progress of the investigation into the sale of the 147 acre facility at the tailing pond near Silvermines, County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1623/99]

The investigation to which the Deputy refers is a matter for the Environmental Protection Agency, an independent statutory body to which any questions regarding progress should be addressed.

I have no statutory responsibility for, nor authority over, this tailings facility. This type of facility would have been subject to local authority planning control. I am, of course, concerned that old mine-related sites such as this do not cause environmental or health problems. Officials of my Department have, notwithstanding the fact that I have no statutory responsibility or authority for this site, visited the site and discussed recent developments with the planning authority. The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating the situation and my Department is co-operating fully with the agency. I understand that the agency has also been monitoring water quality in the area for some time.
The mine which generated the tailings operated under a State mining lease for the extraction of State minerals. This lease ran from 1 September 1965 to 1 December 1998. Production of the minerals ceased in 1982 and the area of the tailings pond was subsequently grassed to stabilise the top surface and prevent dust blows. Tailings are the sand-like residue of ground rock after removal of target ores from the mined rock. The tailings pond is not within the lease area. I understand that the tailings area was recently sold to a farmer.
I would also add that the lease for this mine was drafted over 30 years ago at a time when the problems which might be associated with tailings management facilities and environmental concerns were not as widely appreciated as they are today. Accordingly leases at that time did not contain conditions relating to maintenace of tailings facilities.
Modern leases and licences under the Minerals Development Acts, 1940 to 1995, have very stringent requirements regarding closure. Planning and design of tailings impoundments and substantial bonds are required of the lessee or licensee to ensure that funds are available in perpetuity to allow that the necessary maintenance and rehabilitation are carried out. A properly managed facility would not pose a hazard to public health or the environment. Construction and maintenance of a tailings facility is now a licensable activity under the Environmental Protection Agency Act.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

189 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the plans, if any, his Department has to protect rivers and lakes from the estimated 300,000 tonnes of hazardous waste produced each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1624/99]

As part of my remit for the management and development of fisheries I regard the protection of lakes and rivers from pollution from any source as absolutely essential.

I have already given details of my Water Quality Action Plan to this House. As part of this plan I am pleased to inform you that, following my agreement, the Central Fisheries Board have recently appointed an Environmental Co-ordinator.

I will also continue to raise my concerns about pollution with my colleague the Minister for the Environment and Local Government who is responsible for the implementation of the Water Pollution Acts generally.