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Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005

Environmental Protection Agency: Presentation.

I welcome the representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency. Today's discussion will deal with the issues of the agency's work identified by the committee as being of interest to it, namely, genetically modified organisms, illegal dumping in County Wicklow and matters relating to the licensing system employed by the agency.

Before the presentation commences, I draw attention to the fact that members of the committee have absolute privilege but that this same privilege does not apply to witnesses appearing before the committee. Members are also reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I welcome Dr. Mary Kelly and Dr. Padraic Larkin and invite them to address the meeting.

I am the director general of the Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Larkin is the deputy director general and director of the office of licensing and guidance within the EPA. We are delighted to appear before the committee and to help with any queries on the issues it has identified to us.

I prepared an opening statement. As one could write a book about the matters the Chairman mentioned, I tried to keep it as brief as possible. I will read the statement to put in context the discussion we may have subsequently.

The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, is an independent public body established in 1993 under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992. Its sponsor in Government is the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The EPA is managed by a full-time executive board that consists of a director general and four directors. The independence of the agency is assured through the selection procedures for the director general and directors and the freedom, as provided in the legislation, to act on its own initiative. The assignment, under the legislation, of direct responsibility for a wide range of functions underpins this independence. Under legislation, it is a specific offence to attempt to influence the agency, or anyone acting on its behalf, in an improper manner. The agency is assisted by an advisory committee of 12 members, appointed by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The EPA has a wide range of statutory duties and powers under the Act. In addition, the capacity of the EPA in enforcement has been enhanced by powers contained in the Protection of the Environment Act 2003. The main responsibilities of the EPA include: licensing large-complex industrial and other processes with significant polluting potential; monitoring environmental quality, including the establishment of databases to which the public has access; publishing periodic reports on the state of the environment; promoting environmentally sound practices; promoting and co-ordinating environmental research; licensing all significant waste disposal and recovery activities, including landfills, and the preparation of a national hazardous waste management plan; implementing a system of permitting for the control of VOC emissions resulting from the storage of significant quantities of petrol at terminals; implementing and enforcing the GMO regulations for the contained use and deliberate release of GMOs into the environment; preparing and implementing a national hydrometric programme; drafting a national allocation plan for greenhouse gas emissions allowance trading; the establishment of a national competent authority for the issuing of trading permits and allowances; the monitoring, overseeing and verification of emissions from participating companies; and the establishment of a national emissions trading registry.

Under the Office of Environmental Enforcement which we established within the agency in 2003 and which is dedicated to the implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation in Ireland, the responsibilities are: to improve overall compliance with environmental protection legislation in Ireland; to raise awareness about the importance of enforcement of environmental protection legislation in Ireland; to enforce IPPC licences and waste licences issued by the EPA; auditing and reporting on the performance of local authorities in the discharge of their environmental protection functions, which include enforcement in respect of breaches of waste permits, taking action on illegal dumping, implementation of waste collection permits and enforcement of producer responsibility initiatives; taking action against local authorities that are not discharging their environmental protection functions in an adequate manner; prosecuting, or assisting local authorities to prosecute, significant breaches of environmental protection legislation in a timely manner; and assisting local authorities to improve their environmental protection performance, through the establishment of an enforcement network to promote information exchange and best practice and by the provision of appropriate guidance.

I will now address the three issues which the joint committee wishes to discuss today. Through its licensing functions, the Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for regulating activities which have the potential to cause significant environmental pollution. This is achieved through IPPC licensing of industry under the Environmental Protection Agency Acts 1992 and 2003 and the licensing of waste facilities under the Waste Management Acts 1996 to 2003. The licensing procedures under both sets of legislation are similar and along the lines of the planningprocedures. They require public notice by the applicant prior to making the application, the facility for third parties to make submissions on the application and a notification by the agency of its proposed decision. Following notification, there is a period for objections to be lodged, which objections may be heard through an oral hearing process or by a technical committee established for that purpose.

The licensing statistics are as follows:



Applications received



Submissions on applications



Objections to Proposed decisions



Licenses granted



Licences refused



Applications rejected, abandoned, withdrawn or surrendered



Under consideration at present



All documentation relating to an application, apart from commercially sensitive material occasionally held as confidential at the request of the applicant, is made available on public files. The Environmental Protection Agency is moving to an electronic document management system for licensing and all applications, submissions and objections will be available on the worldwide web later this year. Currently, proposed decisions, reports of inspectors and technical committees and final decisions are available on the EPA website.

The Office of Environmental Enforcement, OEE, is responsible for the enforcement of EPA licences issued for waste, industrial and other activities. Enforcement is carried out under powers conferred on the Environmental Protection Agency by the EPA Acts, the Waste Management Acts, the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts and the Air Pollution Act 1987. The OEE has developed an enforcement policy based on the principles of proportionality, consistency of approach, transparency, targeting of enforcement action and implementation of the polluter pays principle.

A range of enforcement tools are available to the Environmental Protection Agency up to and including prosecution. The Environmental Protection Agency and Waste Management Acts provide for the Environmental Protection Agency to prosecute summarily in the District Court. Indictable offences must be prosecuted by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Penalties available under the Acts are: on summary conviction, a fine not exceeding €3,000 or imprisonment for any term not exceeding 12 months or both; on conviction on indictment, a fine not exceeding €15 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or both.

While in many cases a prosecution will be the ultimate sanction used by the Environmental Protection Agency, it may not always be the most appropriate course of action. There are a number of other instruments available to the agency in that regard. Inspections, monitoring visits and audits are carried out by a team of professional EPA staff. Warning letters, a written notification that in the opinion of the OEE an offence has been committed and setting out what is required to remedy the situation, are often effective in achieving the desired environmental outcome. A statutory notice which is legally binding may be issued under certain circumstances, for example, to revoke or suspend a licence issued by the EPA or to direct a local authority to take certain action. In some circumstances, an application may be made to the appropriate court for an order to cease causing pollution, including the cessation of the activity giving rise to the pollution and to mitigate or remedy the effects of such pollution.

In 2004, 17 prosecutions were taken through the courts and we have taken ten so far this year. A number of cases are being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions. The following information concerns enforcement activities for 2004. Some 525 inspections were carried out on IPPC sites and 342 on waste sites. Audits were carried out at 222 IPPC sites and 52 waste sites. There were 1,027 monitoring visits at IPPC sites and 109 on waste sites. Seven statutory notices were issued to IPPC companies and one was issued to a waste company. Some 497 notifications of non-compliance were issued to IPPC companies and 221 were issued to waste companies. We instigated 14 prosecutions against IPPC sites and eight against waste sites.

I turn now to the issue of illegal dumping. Illegal waste movement and unauthorised disposal of waste is a major national issue which threatens not just the environment and public health but also Ireland's reputation abroad. This problem was exemplified by the large-scale illegal dumping that took place in County Wicklow during the period 1997 to 2002, and more recent revelations regarding the illegal movement of waste to Northern Ireland and overseas.

One of the first priorities of the Office of Environmental Enforcement when it was established in 2003 was to tackle these issues. While immediate steps were taken by the office to deal with these issues and significant progress is now being made, there was a paucity of information about the true nature of unauthorised waste activity in Ireland. For this reason, the OEE commissioned a study to establish the nature and extent of unauthorised waste activity in Ireland from 1996 to the present in order that it could formulate plans and actions to tackle the problem based on reliable information. This study is almost complete and the results, including an action plan to address the issues, will be published in September this year.

There is evidence that significant unauthorised landfilling of commercial and industrial waste and construction and demolition waste took place, mainly between 1997 and 2002 and primarily in the greater Dublin area. By far the greatest level of unauthorised landfilling during this period occurred in counties Wicklow and Kildare. Although there were initial indications in County Wicklow that up to 100 illegal sites had been used for unauthorised dumping, further investigation by Wicklow County Council resulted in the identification of a number of sites where unauthorised disposal of waste occurred in a planned and organised manner with the remainder mainly consisting of sites where waste had been fly-tipped.

Investigations are ongoing at the unauthorised sites and a number of cases have been dealt with by the courts or are currently proceeding through the courts. With regard to the sites in County Wicklow, investigations are under way, either by Wicklow County Council, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation or cases are with the Director of Public Prosecutions. Therefore the level of information that can be reported on these sites is limited, as we would not wish to compromise any prosecutions that may emerge.

The main priority of the Environmental Protection Agency in dealing with these sites is to conduct, or to have conducted, a risk assessment to determine the level of risk or potential risk to the environment and public health and to ensure the appropriate measures are taken which will result in the minimisation of risk and the remediation of the site. Many of these sites will need to be remediated under licence, and it is the job of the EPA to consider and decide upon applications for such licences.

On a more general note, the growth in illegal dumping is an undesirable feature of the past decade. The criminal practice of taking waste and dumping it in unlicensed and illegal sites, both within and outside of this jurisdiction, has allowed unscrupulous operators to make vast profits at the expense of the environment and of Ireland's reputation. There is no excuse for this type of activity. The EPA, in co-operation with other enforcement authorities, will pursue every available measure to stamp it out. The Office of Environmental Enforcement has made a real impact on illegal activities during 2004 with the establishment of the environmental enforcement network which harnesses the collective resources, expertise and investigative capacity of the local authorities, the Garda Síochána, the Northern Ireland Environment and Heritage Service and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Enforcement activity was stepped up with two concerted enforcement actions undertaken, targeting in particular the illegal trafficking of waste to Northern Ireland. I am confident that prosecutions will follow from these actions and that there will be a further escalation of enforcement in 2005.

On genetically modified organisms, as I am conscious our colleague, Dr. Tom McLoughlin, has addressed this committee in the recent past, I have kept our presentation brief but we can elaborate further if the committee wishes. The EPA is the competent authority in Ireland for the implementation of the GMO regulations on the contained use and the deliberate release of GMOs into the environment. In practice this means that anyone who wants to use a GMO in a laboratory or a factory — contained use — or in a field trial which is deliberate release into the environment, must first obtain a licence from the Environmental Protection Agency. Other organisations also have responsibility for certain aspects of GMO regulation in Ireland. These include the Food Safety Authority of Ireland for food, the Department of Agriculture and Food for animal feed and the Irish Medicines Board for medicines. As one of the regulatory authorities in Ireland the EPA is neither for nor against GMO technology. The EPA maintains a register of GMO users in Ireland which contains details of the user and the GMO. Currently, there are 199 entries on the register.

The EPA assesses each application, using a combination of internal expertise and advice from both the EPA's GMO advisory committee and the GMO and novel foods sub-committee of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland's scientific committee. The EPA also consults Departments, other State bodies and experts in academic institutions for advice on GMO notifications and dossiers as necessary. The over-riding concern of the EPA in looking at GMO notifications or dossiers and in the implementation of the genetically-modified organisms regulations is to ensure their use does not have an adverse effect on human health or the environment.

Further information on all these issues, other areas of the EPA's responsibilities and all the EPA's reports are available on the EPA website.

We will deal with the three issues separately. I am conscious of the presence of representatives from County Wicklow. The first issue we will deal with is illegal dumping in that county, followed by licensing and then GMOs. I am conscious that Dr. Kelly has stated she does not wish to compromise any prosecutions that may emerge and, therefore, ask members to be conscious of those comments also. I will take questions from Deputies O'Dowd and McManus and Senator Ross in that order.

I welcome Dr. Kelly and Dr. Larkin. One paragraph read by Dr. Kelly has not been provided for us and I ask that it be made available. It was the last paragraph relating to illegal dumping.

I am conscious of the Chairman's warning about due process. I have a question on the role of the Environmental Protection Agency. The first annual report of the Office of Environmental Enforcement published last year referred to two local authorities to which the office had issued a direction, if that is the correct term. The office found the local authorities to be in breach of directives issued by the EPA. I believe the EPA is about to bring these local authorities to court for non-compliance with instructions given to them by the EPA to deal with illegal waste. Is it the case that one of those two local authorities is County Wicklow and the other is County Kildare? Will the delegation comment?

The power to give a direction to local authorities is a relatively new power that was conferred on the EPA under the Protection of the Environment Act 2003. Where the EPA believes immediate action needs to be taken, it enables it to direct a local authority to carry out works. In each of those cases referred to by the Deputy, we believed this was what we needed to do. This Act gives us power to direct a local authority to carry out the work. The local authority then has 21 days in which to comment and the direction takes force after that and we can impose a time limit. We have found it a useful instrument to get work done in this sense and are using it more often. In the cases in question, it was not used for the large scale dumping in CountyWicklow but it was for two very discreet incidents that needed to be dealt with immediately, which has been done under the direction. We are happy to have this power and fully intend to use it more in future.

Is Dr. Kelly saying the local authority was in compliance with the major issues whereas Wicklow County Council was written to about this minor issue?

Certainly not. I may have misled the Deputy. We would only use a direction or a proposed direction in a serious case.

There were serious issues. We have a number of different relationships with local authorities. For instance, we can licence them. If they are licensed, we have power over them and can enforce the conditions of the licence. I am fairly sure that illegal dumping took place in these circumstances. We wanted the issue dealt with then and there and the problem removed, which was done both times.

I will not labour the issue but the reason the EPA did this was because the local authority was not responding to the points it had made.


My key point is that it is unacceptable to the EPA and legislators that local authorities would not do as directed by the EPA. I welcome that action was taken but I am disappointed that this happened. Apart from the two local authorities mentioned by Dr. Kelly, one of which relates to the matter of illegal dumping in County Wicklow, is Dr. Kelly satisfied she can reaffirm to the committee that the cases she is talking about in that instance are not the cases she is discussing here?

They are not the cases of illegal dumping about which we are talking.

There must be some way through which these local authorities can be brought to account. It could be here at the committee, by the Minister or by the EPA. We rely on local authorities to be the first line of defence for the community. When they do not obey legitimate and proper instructions from the EPA, it is an appalling situation. The county managers and people concerned should be brought to account by the Minister or in a public forum. If The New York Times and other international journals are commenting adversely on the waste system in Ireland and its problems, local authorities should be totally embarrassed when they are not doing their jobs.

Deputy Cuffe is a member of the committee and attends often. He is also a party spokesperson.

I want to set the background for the concerns that people have about illegal dumping near the town of Blessington in CountyWicklow. This growing town is located upstream of Dublin's biggest reservoir. Beside Blessington are a number of quarries and lands, many of which are under the control of Cement Roadstone Holdings. CRH is one of Ireland's largest and most successful companies but hundreds of thousands of tonnes of illegal waste were deposited on its lands over a number of years. A delegation from CRH visited the committee approximately two years ago and denied all knowledge of the waste or when or by whom it was deposited. Frankly, this statement by CRH was outrageous and incredible. What information does the Environmental Protection Agency now have about the illegal dump? What information does it have regarding the source of the waste and what direct investigations has it carried out on those lands? Is Dr. Kelly satisfied with the response from Wicklow County Council, from which it seems to have been difficult to obtain clear information? Am I correct in stating remediation is occurring on that site or, in other words, that waste remains? Is Dr. Kelly happy that there is a dump upstream of a reservoir which supplies much of the water to Dublin city and other areas?

I must be careful in trying to answer the several questions posed by Deputy Cuffe because some court cases are pending and there are other potential cases. It has been two years since the illegal waste was discovered on that site. The EPA is not happy that waste was dumped illegally on the site and it would never be satisfied, in any circumstances, with dumping of this nature.

The law in this area is complex but Wicklow County Council is the competent authority and is responsible for taking action in respect of the waste found on the land. However, the EPA provides a great deal of technical assistance to local authorities in circumstances of this kind because it has the expertise to do so. It also provides guidance and technical assistance to local authorities in respect of many areas.

We have been involved, from the outset, in directing the investigation of the site. I do not have all the information with me but I can state we are aware that waste is illegally dumped in more than one place on this site. The nature of the site is complex because it is a working quarry. We have directed and examined all the risk assessments carried out and we were happy with how these were conducted. As we have had many meetings with CRH and Wicklow County Council and their respective consultants, we are au fait with what is happening on the site.

After the waste was characterised and the particular areas of interest had been identified,Wicklow County Council, under a section notice, instructed CRH to take measures to deal with the waste. CRH applied to the EPA, as it must do under the legislation, for a licence to move the waste in order to create a landfill to remediate the site. The application was to move the waste from the areas of particular concern into a properly lined and managed landfill on the site. There was no indication in the application that it wished to use the landfill for anything other than remediation.

We received that application in December 2004 and issued a proposed determination in June, an interval of just over six months. Five months is the minimum time it would take because of all the statutory consultation, etc., required. We turned the application around relatively quickly, although I understand people's concerns that this has dragged on for several years.

We proposed to refuse the application for the landfill licence for four reasons, the first of which is that the siting of the proposed landfill facility on the locally important unconfined aquifer in proximity to the Wicklow County Council's Blessington wellfield would constitute an unacceptable risk of environmental pollution. The zone of contribution of the Blessington wellfield lies directly in the path, and down or cross-gradient, of the proposed landfill cells. The second is that the applicant had not demonstrated to the satisfaction of the agency the requirement to dispose of all of the quantity of waste as proposed in the licence application. The third is that the applicant has not demonstrated to the satisfaction of the agency that it is not practicable to identify or establish a landfill disposal site in a lower risk area, particularly at a suitable licensed facility elsewhere. The fourth is that the measures proposed for the excavation of waste at area six are not sufficient to adequately ensure that odour nuisance and groundwater contamination will not arise, thus causing environmental pollution.

I stress that this is a proposed decision. The applicant and any other third parties have 28 days in which to object to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the decision. In the interim, we are not at liberty to comment on the matter or discuss it in any great detail because we have a quasi-judicial role. Our decision has been made.

The applicants sought a remediation landfill. We have refused it at the position on the site where they requested it. Are we satisfied with Wicklow County Council? We have worked closely with it in this regard and are satisfied with it in terms of our relationship in this particular instance. I cannot comment on the source of the waste because it might implicate other people. However, it was mostly construction and demolition waste.

What the EPA knows about the origin of that waste is crucial, given the emphasis within waste policy on dealing with waste, as far as possible, inside the area where it occurred. Has the EPA been able to determine with any clarity from where the waste came?

As a number of prosecutions are currently before the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, I must be careful in what I say. Our focus would be more on the nature of the waste, in terms of who put it there, than on its source. However, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Garda would have conducted investigations into the matter, although I cannot say what the results of those investigations are. From the environmental protection point of view, we would be more interested in the nature of the waste and in ensuring that there is no hazardous or municipal waste there that could cause a problem.

Has the EPA visited the site in a formal capacity? What scientific evidence does it possess in respect of the possible contamination of the aquifer? Has the EPA encountered such contamination? My concern is whether or not leachate or other substances from that waste are heading towards the Roundwood reservoir.

We have been on site many times and have carried a great deal of testing there, as well as aiding the county council in that work. We have evidence of contamination beginning to occur from the site into the groundwater. However, it is moving at a very slow pace and poses no threat for up to 100 years, although I would have to check that figure. However, we will have to remediate the groundwater.

I thank Dr. Kelly and I am pleased that the EPA is concerned about the very simple problem of having a dump upstream of a reservoir. I hope it can proceed with determination in that regard.

I thank the Chairman for permitting this discussion on illegal dumping in County Wicklow. I wrote to him about the matter and very much appreciate the fact that he was able to include it. I also thank the EPA.

I have several questions which I will ask together to save time. It has been pointed out that the situation in County Wicklow is very stark. I would like to extend the discussion to show the true picture, since we are not talking merely about the Roadstone site but about major dumping at other sites. I find it extremely disturbing that a period of four years has elapsed. Perhaps the EPA might comment on the slowness shown in taking action, particularly through the courts.

Can the EPA now measure the extent of the illegal dumping in west Wicklow at the Coolnamadra site where 80,000 tonnes of waste was found and Whitestown where I understand 300,000 tonnes was dumped? At the Stephenson's site 250,000 tonnes was dumped. We do not know the extent of dumping at Russborough and I would like to know if the EPA can put a figure on it. The same goes for the Roadstone site. It adds up to a large degree of criminal activity in a very lucrative business involving hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste. Four years on, however, there has been only one court case. We must note this. I do not attach any blame to the EPA but we must examine why results have been so limited.

Regarding the Coolnamadra site, in which case there was court action and the court directed that the material be removed, has anything yet been removed, and, if so, where has it gone? On Whitestown, there are now major concerns locally because of proposals by the new owners to turn it into a legal dump. What is the EPA's position on what is happening there and the future of the material? Regarding the Roadstone site, does the EPA not take the view that one of the wealthiest companies in Ireland which is making fantastic profits has overseen, despite what it states, an extraordinary amount of illegal dumping, for some of which Wicklow County Council admitted being responsible? That great amount of material is now dumped very close to a residential area. Surely the EPA would consider that this requires more than simply shifting the material around, particularly in view of the fact that groundwater has now been contaminated. Is it not now more appropriate for the EPA to devise a scheme whereby the material would be simply taken off the site in order that there would be no danger of any future contamination at other locations?

Regarding the investigator employed byWicklow County Council, has the EPA been able to deal with him and assess the full picture and the extent of the problem? Does it have a breakdown of hospital and household waste? We all understand construction waste tends not to be as dangerous as those other forms, although there are areas of concern. The EPA states it is not its role to go back to the source of waste. Is there no role for it to find out why major hospitals in Dublin, including one private hospital, have been found to be the source of waste in illegal dumps, albeit perhaps unwittingly? Has it investigated the Redden site at Enniskerry and what was going on at the Ballyogan site in County Dublin? Complaints were made to it regarding illegal dumping in the middle of the night.

What has been the impact on the two residential estates of Woodleigh and Deerpark in Blessington? Has the EPA carried out a full assessment of any risk to water supplies to those two estates, in which residents are extremely concerned?

Many questions were asked and the Deputy can get back to me if I do not answer all of them.

The situation is completely unacceptable in County Wicklow. The director of the Office of Environmental Enforcement is unable to be here, but I am sure he could give a better explanation than I can. When we set up the OEE, we considered illegal waste to be the highest priority for that office in order that we could stamp it out altogether. As there is much anecdotal evidence on what is going on, but no real facts, we commissioned a series of reports on the nature and extent of illegal dumping around Ireland. These reports are being synthesised into a final report. Areas in counties Wicklow and Kildare are the worst affected. We have a full picture and will publish the entire report in September. All of the sites mentioned by the Deputy are on the report, including the tonnages and types of waste involved. We know what is going on.

Can that information be shared with the committee?

I cannot provide it off the top of my head, but the figures are available on those sites. In some cases, the investigations are not complete. These waste sites can be very complex because many of them are in worked out quarries. Therefore, it is difficult to examine them. In all cases, we have been on-site, have examined the sites and directed the investigations. Our main consideration is to assess the risk to groundwater, to the environment and to public health in those areas. We then work with the local authority to see what the best option is for that site.

There are court cases pending in almost all of the cases mentioned by the Deputy. The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation has been involved with the local authority in bringing together prosecutions. It is, therefore, difficult to comment on any of the sites. The Culnamadra site has already been through the courts and received a court order. At our last board meeting, we received a report stating that the work on-site had been completed, that all waste had been removed from the site and that no material of a hazardous nature had been uncovered. It has been remediated and it has come to the conclusion that we wanted. It is our intention to have all the sites remediated in order that there is no risk to the environment. There is an application before us to put a proper landfill in place in Whitestown, to line it and to bring it up to acceptable standards. We are in the process of determining that licence. The board has not yet received a proposed determination from the inspector. I do not know what that proposal will be, but we will consider it as carefully as we considered the Roadstone site. We will ensure that any decision that we make will be made with due regard to the environment.

The owners of the Roadstone site applied to us for a licence to move material from the illegal, unlined part of the site to a proposed lined landfill specifically designed for that material. We refused because it would have compromised the groundwater in the area. There is no doubt that the material will have to come out of its current location. The issue is where it will go. We must ensure it will not cause environmental pollution when moved to another landfill. We do not want to make a bad situation worse.

We are not happy that there is an illegal landfill so close to the residences mentioned. We have refused what Roadstone proposed in terms of moving the material to a landfill on its own site and so we must wait for the statutory period to pass before we will be in a position to make a ruling on what the company should do. However, we intend to have the waste removed from the site as soon as possible. We are in the process of doing this but must allow for the statutory period to elapse.

We have worked and had many discussions with the investigator hired by Wicklow County Council. A lot of trial pits have been dug and much good work has been done. EPA staff are quite happy with the ongoing investigations. We do not have a role in terms of legislating and enforcement with regard to the activities of private hospitals. That is a matter for the local authorities.

As part of an action plan arising from our report, we will try to encourage people to ensure the carriers they use in having their waste taken away are licensed and taking the waste to a licensed location. We are looking into the roll-out of an awareness programme which will be targeted at various sectors. However, that is the extent of what we can do. We do not have a direct enforcement role with regard to private hospitals.

The Redden site is one of the suite of sites under investigation in County Wicklow. I do not want to say too much about it but we are aware of the matter and have been on-site. We are examining the matter together with the county council and other authorities. I am not overly familiar with the Ballyogan site but believe the issue concerned fly-tipping. If that is the case, we will have the matter referred on to the local authority. I will return to it on another occasion.

On Whitestown, do delegates agree that, in effect, one is rewarding people by establishing an official landfill facility because it happens to be a major illegal wasteland? Surely this is very bad practice.

With regard to Roadstone, has the EPA assessed the amount of waste material there? Wicklow County Council initially stated there was approximately 350,000 tonnes before it completed two trial holes but the figure now mentioned by CRH is 50,000 tonnes. There is a huge disparity. The smaller the amount the better for the company. What is the actual tonnage?

Delegates mentioned two sites where Wicklow County Council was remiss. To which two sites were they referring?

We only issued the county council with a direction with regard to one site, located outside Arklow, where composting material being moved was causing an odour.

Regarding the amount, we receive information through the application procedure. My information is that there is somewhere between 100,000 and 175,000 tonnes on-site. The variation depends on the view one takes as to how much contamination the dumped material will cause in the surrounding soil. In its application Roadstone proposed an amount up to 180,000 tonnes but we were not convinced that all 180,000 tonnes needed to be placed in a landfill elsewhere. There is a role for remediation and recovery as some of the material is inert. I am not trying to avoid the question, but the exact amount that must be placed in landfill elsewhere is unclear. However, it is between 100,000 and 180,000 tonnes.

What about my point concerning Whitestown?

I accept the Deputy's point. We must licence under the powers conferred upon us in the legislation. It is a legalistic process and is not based on morals. When the EPA issues a licence, it must examine the six issues laid out for us under the Act and we are precluded from issuing a licence unless the six issues are addressed. Hence, we must consider environmental protection. However, we have a policy direction from the Minister for which we must have regard which will be helpful to us when determining licences. I cannot tell the joint committee what will be the outcome.

I welcome the delegates. I wish to talk about the situation regarding CRH exclusively, although people also wish to address many other areas. I congratulate the EPA on its decision. The witnesses may be unaware that it is unusual for CRH to have anything at all refused to it in this country. Normally, it is granted whatever it wishes by whatever agency to which it applies. It has taken a certain amount of courage and independence for the EPA to do so. I wish to commend it and to advise it not to allow CRH to apply too much pressure on the agency to change its mind in the next 28 days. The EPA has four good reasons for refusing CRH's application.

In general, CRH has claimed that in recent times, it has been a good corporate citizen. Does Dr. Kelly agree, in the light of her knowledge, regarding County Wicklow? Perhaps she could comment on this matter for the joint committee, to see whether the claim stands up in the current circumstances.

I also wish to ask some detailed questions. Is there any guarantee that the EPA has come to the end of this particular problem in Blessington, County Wicklow? Is there any possibility that it extends a great deal further, particularly on CRH lands? Is there any evidence that the problem might extend further into Kildare, where CRH also has interests and where there are well documented complaints of pollution before Kildare County Council? Does the EPA know anything about this matter and has it investigated it? If not, is the EPA prepared to examine it?

Second, perhaps the delegates can explain the content of the pollution in the Blessington site to the joint committee and to me as a layman. When Dr. Kelly stated that the aquifer was now in danger of contamination, albeit over a 100 year period, it sounded horrifying that the potential exists for this to occur in a much shorter time than 100 years, particularly if it is possible that more material will be found. I assume it is possible that a great deal more will be found and this particular process will accelerate.

The next question which is related to Deputy Cuffe's remarks concerns the source of this particular pollution. Dr. Kelly must be careful about this because of the various court cases. However, it would be reasonable for her to tell the joint committee what she would say in the various court cases if asked to give evidence, without making any judgments. The committee can happily live with that and it would not prejudice the court cases. In other words, can Dr. Kelly tell the joint committee what evidence the EPA has as to where the material came from? Has she ever previously come across a similar case, where 175,000 tonnes or more has been dumped in a particular place without the owners ever seeing anything happening? Perhaps she could quote us chapter and verse in terms of where there is a precedent for this in the EPA's short history. It is not a problem if there is no precedent for it.

If the EPA courageously stands by the decision it has already made, what is the next step open to CRH? Dr. Kelly said that the EPA will not allow CRH to remediate in this instance. What alternative is open to CRH and at what cost? Does Dr. Kelly think it is reasonable that a multinational of this kind should be able to remedy a problem of this sort and get away, scot free, with murder? This is something that the EPA should consider in terms of its powers and the lack of penalties available. The cost of remediation means nothing to CRH. Does Dr. Kelly think this is reasonable or is she of the opinion that the EPA and Wicklow County Council should be given greater powers to impose penalties on multinationals which behave in this cowboy-like fashion?

I do not wish to indicate if I have a view as to whether CRH is a good corporate citizen. The illegal waste is on CRH's site inBlessington, as Senator Ross pointed out, and needs to be removed from it. CRH has co-operated with Wicklow County Council and the EPA in terms of the investigation and putting up the finance for the investigation. We have received co-operation from CRH in our dealings with it.

Is there any guarantee that we have come to the end of the problem in Blessington? It is difficult to guarantee anything in this life but there has been a comprehensive investigation by Wicklow County Council and the EPA on the site. To the best of our knowledge, we have covered the site in that way. The study we have undertaken in the past year has tried to elicit information from all local authorities throughout the country with regard to where any kind of illegal waste — both small and large deposits — has been buried. From what we can see from the initial outcome of that study, there do not appear to be any new huge sites. The latter is good news.

The EPA is conscious that it cannot guarantee that this is the end of the matter but it would like to obtain further information. In that context, one of the proposals before it at present, to which it will agree, is the establishment of a hotline. This manned hotline will take information on illegal waste activity from anybody. If there are other sites where waste has been illegally dumped that have not been identified by the study, which will be published, or if there are new illegal activities starting up, people will be able to inform the EPA about them. The nature of illegal waste dumping means that it is quite difficult to track. We are conscious that we are not drawing a line under the problem and quantifying it. We wish to discover if further illegal dumping of waste is taking place. We are fairly confident that we have identified the major sites relating to the illegal dumping of waste.

The material at the CRH site in CountyWicklow is mainly composed of construction and demolition waste. A number of trial pits have been dug at the site and the material dumped there will be determined from these. The waste found there came mainly from the building boom in the greater Dublin area. Much of this is construction and demolition waste from sites being built.

Contamination in the aquifer will be dealt with when the site is remediated. We will either suck the water out or put some type of containment around the site. There are engineering solutions to the problem. We are not by any means complacent about this being 100 years away but we do not feel there is an immediate threat. We have monitoring bore holes on the drinking water downstream of the site and have detected no signs of contamination. We are very conscious that people are using water in the area.

What does the decision mean? I must be careful to ensure I say that this is a proposed decision at this point. If we uphold it after having examined any objections we receive, it means that Roadstone must consider other alternatives. The committee's members have asked what some of these might be. They are, namely, digging up the waste and separating and grading it into what can be reused. If it is mostly construction and demolition waste, much of it can be reused.

Is that a more expensive, complicated and harder solution? Is the proposed solution the easiest?

I am not sure and cannot tell the Senator, as we have not costed it yet. Building a landfill, lining it and running it properly is not a cheap alternative. The conditions we would have imposed had we issued a licence for a landfill are along the same lines we would have given to any other landfill in the rest of the country. They are extremely expensive to build and to maintain and, hence, this solution is already expensive. The other solution could be more expensive but I would be speculating, as I do not know the answer.

Which is the more satisfactory solution from the point of view of the environment?

From the point of view of the environment, the most satisfactory solution is to remediate and reuse as much of the material as possible and not to put it into another hole in the ground somewhere else.

Will Dr. Kelly be recommending this solution to them?

Due to the legalistic nature of what we do, we refused a licence and are not in a position to condition them to do anything right now. If we had given them a licence, we could put conditions on them. We decided to refuse the licence mainly on the basis of the ground water issue among others. When the 28 day period is over, if we decide to stick with our decision and do not receive strong evidence that could change our minds, we will be in a position where we could direct Wicklow County Council under one of the directions mentioned by Deputy O'Dowd to get CRH to do what I have referred to.

Are there any other alternatives?

This is the best alternative. They can remove everything and place it in landfills somewhere else.

I welcome the personnel and directors from the EPA to this meeting on the large-scale dumping that took place in County Wicklow in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It has been stated that the EPA contacted local authorities across Ireland and there do not appear to be any similar illegal dumps. The biggest culprits over the years have been local authorities. We all know that landfill and dump sites developed around boglands and unused quarries. Great amounts of hazardous waste have been dumped in those areas without proper supervision. The building material asbestos was used in the 1940s and 1950s but was dangerous and became obsolete. Roofs were removed and dumped in these illegal local authority-operated landfills, which were never properly supervised. Many are no longer in use and only a few have been properly rehabilitated. The Environmental Protection Agency's duties should include having its own scientific team to investigate those sites in the interests of health and safety. They must be a cause for the huge rise in cancer throughout the country. The time has come for these disused quarries to be properly investigated.

I saw what happened in my county when I was a member of the local authority. It took the citizens in an area of south Longford to close a dump in close proximity to the River Inny at Ballymahon. It cost thousands, if not millions, of euro to properly rehabilitate the dump. It would not have happened without the citizens of the area taking their case to the District, Circuit and High Court and winning. This is the situation in many places throughout the country.

A certain degree of independence is necessary for investigation. One cannot fully rely on the information coming from a local authority. Dr. Kelly was careful and stated that it did not appear to be the case but one could be surprised at what would be found if an independent investigation team was sent out.

Does the EPA monitor the performance of local authorities with regard to illegal dumping and illegal landfill sites? It seems clear that local authorities have not been fulfilling their obligations in this regard. Will Dr. Kelly comment on the performance of local authorities? Is information available on this? Are some local authorities better than others?

Many of the old dumps run by local authorities until the late 1990s were technically not illegal dumps. The legislation requiring regulation and licensing of those sites did not come into effect until 1996. Until then they were effectively running unregulated dumps, many of them badly. When the legislation was introduced many of those dumps closed. Each local authority has a responsibility, particularly with regard to producing the waste management plan, to compile an inventory of closed landfill sites in their functional areas. Many, if not most of them, have not done this. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government recently issued a policy direction under section 60 of the Waste Management Act which explicitly states to local authorities that they must comply with that part of the Act and that such inventories must be produced. We pointed out that discrepancy for a number of years and are happy to see such a policy direction introduced. We will ensure it will be followed up.

We are in the process of producing guidance for local authorities on how to deal with those dumps, how to carry out a proper risk assessment of each closed dump and how to determine to our satisfaction that a proper risk assessment is carried out to our guidelines and that the proper remediation is established. Some will need more active management than others. That process is about to start. The problem is that we had unregulated waste management for such a long time and we are now reaping the legacy of that. It is the cause of all of these problems coming to light. It is difficult to catch up in a short space of time with the amount of waste and lack of regulation that occurred for so long. However, in terms of risk assessment, we are working hard on that issue. The European Court of Justice was also not very happy with the way with which those closed sites had been dealt.

The reason we are putting a hotline in place is to elicit any other information we have not received from local authorities to date. We will run the hotline on a trial basis for six months, starting within the next few months. It is not up and running yet but after the six month trial we will assess the kind of information we receive, investigate reports thoroughly and determine whether it is worthwhile to keep the hotline going into the future.

Will it be a confidential line?

I do not know all of the details but it will be confidential.

It would have to be a confidential hotline.

Yes, it will be confidential. We will run it in a manner similar to the hotline run by, for example, Victim Support. People can call the hotline to let us know if something is happening in their area. We will investigate the matter and if it is serious, we will take further action. I expect that we will receive a considerable number of calls about fly-tipping and while fly-tipping is serious, we are more interested in uncovering the bigger dumping operations.

We have developed in recent years a system called the local authority management system, designed to monitor the performance of local authorities. This lists in a database the environmental protection responsibilities of local authorities. The list is comprehensive, covering over 300 different responsibilities under various Acts. We conducted a pilot project with a number of local authorities, whereby we audited them against that list and we intend to do this more comprehensively in the future. We are rolling out the project to all local authorities. The initial pilot covered six local authorities and is now being rolled out to the remainder. It is a tool that enables us to audit the performance of local authorities across a range of issues although Illegal dumping and the illegal disposal of waste is one of our main priorities.

We have also set up, in conjunction with the local authorities, an environmental enforcement network because the authorities have major responsibilities in terms of enforcing environmental legislation. Therefore, we need to work with them and to ensure that they are enforcing consistently across all of their functional areas. We have a very effective environmental enforcement network, where we provide the local authorities with training and guidelines on exactly what they need to do under various legislative provisions. We expect to have a very consistent approach to the enforcement of environmental legislation by our agency, which is small, and by the local authorities, who are on the ground and whose job it is to carry out such enforcement. The Office of Environmental Enforcement is working very hard on this matter and is receiving good co-operation from the local authorities. The authorities are very happy to have a body to co-ordinate their activities and they have also received funding from the environment fund to improve their enforcement performance. We can expect to see better performance in the future.

I welcome Dr. Kelly and Dr. Larkin. The EPA was set up under a previous Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats coalition Government and the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, was the Minister of State responsible. I am delighted that the EPA exists because its services are certainly required now. The situation in Wicklow has an effect on the rest of the country because it has given rise to much adverse publicity, both in The New York Times and in other American publications. It reflects very badly not just on County Wicklow, but on all parts of the country that the so-called Garden of Ireland has now become the illegal dump of Ireland. I wonder what everyone in County Wicklow was doing for so many years, including the officials of Wicklow County Council. It appears they buried their heads in the sand and avoided seeing the lorries going into the illegal dumps.

There are approximately 175,000 tonnes of waste in the CRH dump. I do not know what would be the cost of dumping that amount of waste, whether it be done legally or illegally. However, I suspect that the amount of money involved is enormous. It was stated that CRH is paying for the investigation into the dump. Perhaps I misunderstood. Can that aspect be clarified because if it is the case, it is extraordinary?

The reason it has an effect on the rest of the country is that if a direction is given to remove the spoil and the waste from the site in Blessington, it must be removed by lorries and taken to other CRH locations throughout the country. That has an effect on the environment in that it must be transported through streets and towns. That is a very serious situation. It is also very serious that the ground water will be affected whether in 100, ten or five years. One has no real knowledge of how it will be affected. One can carry out all the investigations one wants but one cannot be 100% sure.

I am in debate with CRH over the wall of shame in Palestine. One might wonder what that has to do with the Blessington situation. A letter I received this morning from Declan Doyle, the managing director of CRH, states that it has 60,000 employees, that it is currently ranked among sectoral leaders by a number of independent agencies which certify that it conducts business in an ethical and socially responsible way and that this is based on its reputation, track record and performance and that CRH would not have achieved this recognition if its reputation was in any way in question. Its reputation in Blessington is certainly in question and I lay my case on that put. It must try to restore its reputation.

CRH does not have a good reputation in Palestine given its links with Mashav which owns Nesher Cement, a company producing cement for the wall there. Those companies are deeply involved in the division in that region. It is interesting that such a global company is involved in a serious crisis in Blessington and is also involved in a very serious one in Palestine.

I may have misled the committee slightly when I said CRH is co-operating with us. What I should have said is that it has spent quite a lot of money up to now. I understood it had spent a figure of up to €500,000 on the investigations it has been required to do. I do not think there is anything sinister about that. It is doing what it has been asked to do and has not been found wanting when it has come to paying for it.

As regards moving the waste to another CRH site, the waste will have to be moved under licence to a licensed site, not to another CRH site. There will be the usual traffic.

Would it have received €100 million for the illegal dump? What kind of money would it have received? Is there any estimation of the money it received from people using that illegal dump in which 175,000 tonnes of illegal waste was dumped? That is only one dump in Wicklow. Every corner of County Wicklow seems to have an illegal dump as far as I can see. I am sorry County Wicklow has not acted in the way I felt it should have in the past.

Dr. Kelly might like to comment on planning issues in regard to the operation of quarries and dumps for which we are now paying. Many of them were owned and used by local authorities. Some of the solutions in regard to CRH were mentioned. Are there conditions in the planning permissions obtained by Cement Roadstone in regard to the reinstatement of those operations? Is that separate from the problem which is now coming to light?

It is a separate issue. We do not regulate quarries — the planners do so. In the planning permissions which attach to quarries, there is generally a remediation condition stating that it must be restored or back-filled at the end of its useful life. Back filling and illegal dumping are not the same thing.

Two solutions were mentioned in regard to the Cement Roadstone operation. If one takes material off site, one could very well bring material back on site in terms of the reinstatement.

Our preferred solution to it is that the material to which we refer that is dumped on that site will be taken out of the unlined place in which it is at present, screened, graded, remediated, cleaned if necessary and separated, and that a beneficial use is found for it. Some of that beneficial use might be — I cannot tell the committee this because I am speculating about what is in it — to backfill some area, but not to landfill in the way proposed to us.

Are there any questions on licensing?

I welcome Dr. Larkin and Dr. Kelly. I want to be parochial about this, in particular, on the decision by the EPA to grant a licence to Indaver Ireland to operate the toxic incinerator in Ringaskiddy. The decision to refuse planning permission was twice made by the local authority. In this regard there is a second aspect to this question. The An Bord Pleanála inspector who came out and looked at that site to deal with the case had in excess of 13 or 14 reasons outlining that the council's decision should be upheld. In its wisdom, An Bord Pleanála decided to ignore, or at least consider but not take on board, the advice of its own inspector and grant the permission. Subsequently, the EPA granted a licence and I want to know why, and on what grounds, it did so.

Dr. Kelly stated in her submission that the agency's sponsor Department in Government is the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I will not ask her to quote Government policy. What is the policy of the EPA on incineration? Given the position of a senior Cabinet Minister in Cork city, there is a warped policy on incineration in and around the Cork area. It seems to be infectious in that Cabinet Ministers from other areas are anti-incineration but yet we are told consistently it is Government policy.

This relates somewhat to An Bord Pleanála. I understand that in some cases the EPA, in its wisdom, does not take on board, or at least considers but does not act upon, the advice on some decisions. I may be open to correction on that but my information is that the board more or less overturns rulings made by its inspectors. If that is the case, on what basis are those decisions taken by the board?

Dr. Kelly also stated in her submission that the 12 member advisory committee was on hand to advise the board and it was made up of ministerial appointments. Is there environmental and technical expertise? What do these people have to offer? This touches on the point Deputy Glennon made earlier on the trip to Sellafield. There is no point sending people over there if they do not have the expertise or the technical assistance to support them in making decisions. If there is such advice, I would be interested to know how varied it is and how often these people would be consulted. Is there a priority, in terms of the advice being given to the board by the advisory committee and the report from the EPA's inspectors? I thank Dr. Kelly for her comprehensive replies to the questions.

Dr. Larkin will take the questions on the licensing as he is director of licensing.

Dr. Padraic Larkin

I thank Senator McCarthy for his questions. We are also in a slightly funny position with Indaver Ireland as we have not yet made a final decision on the Indaver Ireland licence in Ringaskiddy. We are in much the same position as in the case of CRH. We have made a proposed determination, which in this case, as the Senator will be aware, is to grant a licence. We received substantial objections to that and conducted an oral hearing on the objections. Our chairperson of that is in the process of finalising his report to us but it has not yet been received by the board.

The essential point to make on the role of planning and environmental protection is that the Legislature decided that there would be separate and parallel systems, on the planning side and on the environmental protection side, for those facilities that come to the EPA for licensing. It is totally at the discretion of the applicant whether to go for planning first or for a licence first, or to do the two simultaneously. In that sense, they are not influenced by each other. The only exception is that a revision to planning legislation means planners are now entitled in law to refuse permission on environmental protection grounds. If permission is granted, they cannot apply environmental protection conditions because we will take care of that in our licensing. We were aware that the planners had refused a licence when we arrived at our decision and the reasons for it to which we had regard. As we have not yet made a final decision on the site, I will not say any more on the matter.

We have a team of experts in the agency. One of the agency's strengths is that it is able to draw on a strong team of environmental experts within the organisation such as geologists, hydrogeologists and air pollution experts. The advisory committee has no role whatsoever in our licensing decisions. It is appointed by the Government and advises the agency on broad issues such as manpower and funding. It meets approximately four times a year. It does not get involved in discussions on applications for licences. We depend entirely on our own expertise. The process involves an inspector preparing a report which goes through senior officials to the programme manager. It is then placed before the board for decision. Each inspector's report can be viewed on the website. One can examine it and see the arguments made. I cannot think of an instance when we overturned a recommendation. We may modify it and be more or less strict than proposed.

Some people in the Cork area have justifiable concerns about the involvement in impending decisions of a certain person in the agency who previously had a role with Indaver Ireland. I do not state it is right or wrong, or suggest there is something wrong with it. I understand there is a distance between the person concerned and the decision but to allow the process and those concerned the integrity they deserve, a clear indication is required. Some people in the Cork area are extremely concerned.

Dr. Larkin

I understand the local concerns but the person the Senator is discussing has no hand, act or part in the decision on the licence application. He is not in the room when discussion takes place on any aspect of the application from the company in question which has placed a number of applications before us. The person concerned was appointed through a highly independent process. The method of appointment for the director general and directors is laid down in legislation. An independent board comprised of members such as the chairperson of An Taisce makes the appointments.

I share the concern expressed. I welcome movement between the private, State and semi-State sectors and would like to see more of it, albeit with safeguards to prevent conflicts of interest.

With regard to enforcement, the fines the EPA can levy are high and look good on paper. What is the highest fine issued by it to date? Does the delegation have a figure for the total fines levied on offenders? There seems to be a logjam in the courts in that the Judiciary is not perhaps taking environmental concerns as seriously as one might expect. I am concerned that the courts are not putting their full weight behind the agency in this respect. I would welcome figures for the highest fine and total fines to date.

The EPA has an important role in adjudicating on development. For many years local authorities acted as planning authorities in making decisions on planning applications. If one did not like the decision, one could appeal to An Bord Pleanála which looked afresh at these matters independent of the local authority. The flow chart at the back of the EPA's submission reveals that, in essence, it is judge, jury and, in some cases, executioner when processing integrated pollution control licence and waste permit applications. I am unhappy about this and while I recognise Dr. Larkin cannot comment in great detail on this matter, could he envisage a system whereby one agency might consider both the environmental and planning aspects of a proposed development? It would be completely separate from the EPA and local authorities.

Dr. Larkin

In regard to enforcement, I do not have a figure for the highest fine but fines are limited to the maximum fine imposed in the District Court, the highest court to which we can have recourse. Several cases are with the Director of Public Prosecutions but preparing them for the DPP is a slow process because the level of proof necessary for him and the higher courts is far greater than that for the District Court. For example, it is necessary to take statements under caution. We have had bitter experience of this slow process recently because it ties people up for a long time.

When one wants simply to notify a person that he or she is offside and ensure he or she understands this point, it is best to go to the District Court which will impose a fine of €2,000 or €3,000 and award our costs which are much higher than the level of the fine. This information is available on our website. For example, we have incurred costs in the order of €30,000 or €40,000 in our investigations. That is where it hurts. In addition, however, the person concerned must spend money to do whatever is required to rectify the problem at the site. That is where the real money is spent, sometimes in the region of millions of euro. The Judiciary is now more aware of waste management issues. For example, district justices refused to accept jurisdiction in certain cases, even when we did not wish to go any further, saying they were too big for their court, and referred them to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Deputy is right to say we must deal with the legislation as written. We have significant contact with similar organisations across Europe and there is no perfect system. Sometimes the police and a judge are used. In Sweden there is a judge who sits in a public forum to make a final judgment having heard all sides. He or she receives technical advice from academics but that does not work very well. The idea was that we would have an independent agency with expertise at one location. In so far as possible we create a Chinese wall by giving an application to three independent people who have not looked at it before and who will go through the process again. They look at it again de novo, consider the objections raised and make recommendations to us. Sometimes they make sensible changes. The process is as independent as possible.

We have had a lot of discussion on GMOs in recent weeks. Is there more to be said on the subject? No. I thank Dr. Kelly and Dr. Larkin. They have been very forthcoming in their replies, which we appreciate. We will return to the subject of illegal dumping in County Wicklow in September when we will endeavour to interview CRH, An Taisce, Wicklow County Council and the Health Service Executive. There are some further items of business if members care to remain.

The joint committee went into private session at 12.50 p.m. and adjourned at 12.55 p.m. sine die.