Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990 [ Seanad ]: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

I welcome this Bill, which indicates the priority the Government are giving to environmental matters. Indeed, this is a common theme throughout Europe at present where environmental matters are becoming more and more important. We have not been slow to follow that trend and in some cases to lead it. This Bill is a further step in that process.

Both this Government and the previous Government have good records in the area of environmental protection. They have introduced a number of Acts — for example, the Water Pollution Act and the Air Pollution Act. The Minister of State has also taken action to resolve the smog problem in Dublin. Last year the Government published an action plan for the environment. This is probably one of the most significant documents published by the Department of the Environment during the past decade. It is important to note that not only did the Government outline their aspirations in relation to the environment in that document but they also provided the money to implement those aspirations and ideas. A further aspect of that document is that it has allowed local authorities to plan ahead. I can cite the example of Meath County Council who have gone to the Department on the basis of the plan and outlined their needs. They have been told well in advance that funding will be available in 1991, 1992 or 1993 and they can go ahead with the planning of sewerage and water schemes. This very important change in the Government's attitude has meant that local authorities no longer have to work in the dark. One could wait for ten years for a sewerage or a water scheme or some anti-pollution measure, without approval in principle or otherwise from the Department and suddenly be told towards the end of a financial year: "X amount of money is left, we will give you the go ahead" and the necessary planning would not be done. That environmental plan was very important and I compliment the Ministers and the Department involved for putting it forward and also the new attitude within the Department where people are told in advance to plan ahead for 1991, 1992, 1993 and so on.

I give a general welcome to the Bill. Most people have welcomed it. Possibly many people have welcomed it because they have some vague notion that if it is an Environmental Protection Agency it will protect the environment; so, therefore, the Bill must be good. It conjures up all sorts of visions of a concerned society seeking to protect the natural environment and even visions of knights in shining armour tackling the big bad world of pollution. Because of that everybody will welcome it. Perhaps we should query whether in itself it is a good thing or why is it necessary that we should have an Environmental Protection Agency? We should ask ourselves the question: why do we need this agency or, more basically, do we need an Environmental Protection Agency? Have our local authorities not been given the task of environmental protection? Should they not be environmental protection agencies? We have 87 local authorities and if they are not environmental protection agencies we should ask ourselves why. Why is it the perception among the general public that local authorities are not fulfilling their role as protectors of the environment? Heretofore, one of the reasons for that perception was the lack of funds given to the local authorities by the Department of the Environment. Thankfully, as I have indicated at the outset, that has changed for the better over the last number of years, even to the extent of indicating that funds will be available at some future date which allows the planning to go ahead.

However, much damage was done in the past to local authorities because they were not getting the funds. We have examples in every county in Ireland where local authorities are the biggest polluters in their own local authority areas. It is very difficult for a local authority to police environmental matters when the local authority are guilty of pollution. Local authorities had no credibility in that area. That is one reason for the public perception that local authorities are not doing their job for the environment. The second reason is that, as I have indicated over the past three or four years, the laws which existed previously were totally inadequate. It was very difficult for local authorities — and still is in some instances — to obtain a prosecution in relation to pollution offences. That has improved, but there is still a long way to go. It is damaging to local authorities that the legislation is not sufficiently tight to allow them to prosecute and to do so more regularly. A third reason — and one which is understandable at a time when jobs are scarce — is that in the past local authorities did not put the environment first but rather put the possibility of jobs at the top of their agenda. As a result, in some cases environmental issues were ignored and local authorities lost credibility. It led to many problems and much local confrontation that the local authorities appeared to ignored the whole area of environmental protection.

In the last couple of years I was lucky to have visited Taiwan, which is said to be one of the most advanced industrial nations in the world; they are the fifth largest trading nation in the world, about one-third the size of Ireland. They put industry first and, unfortunately, they are reaping the harvest of that policy. The environment is completely and totally ruined. At the time of my visit serious consideration was being given to a whole range of environmental measures including banning cars from their capital city and various other stringent measures that would have to be taken. If we pursue a policy of jobs first at all costs, then we could end up the same; but, as previous speakers have said, we are beginning to get the balance right.

The fourth reason for saying local authorities have lacked credibility in the area of environmental protection was because of a lack of expertise within the local authorities in dealing with highly technical planning applications. Very often the expertise they needed was not available. It is fair to say, in some cases, that some local authorities refused planning applications on the basis that they were not able to deal with them sufficiently well because of lack of expertise. They thought that by refusing the planning permission it would be passed on to An Board Pleanála who might get the expertise.

All of this combined has led to an undermining of public confidence in the role of local authorities in environmental protection. That is the problem as I see it. The question I ask is whether this Bill addresses that problem. I have to be honest and say I am not sure it addresses it fully. I have to ask myself whether this Bill will restore public confidence. Will the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, as a body, restore confidence in the whole area of environmental protection? I doubt it. The doubt I have arises from the fact that whenever we run into a major problem in Ireland the solution is to set up a commission, a committee or work party to study or to take action on a particular area. Very few of these bodies seem to work.

I take one example from the area of planning which is closely related to the whole area of environmental protection. In the late seventies people wanted a change in the planning system: they wanted it moved out of political control. The solution at that time was An Bord Pleanála. The question we should ask is whether they solved the problem we had in relation to planning. My answer to that question is a very firm and resounding "No". There is hardly a more discredited body in the country at present than An Bord Pleanála. Instead of improving the perception of the planning process, as it was designed to do, it has made it worse. There are examples from other areas which I could give, but that is the most glaring example of setting up a so-called independent board which was supposed to solve the problem but did not. I simply pose the question, because I do not want to see the same thing happening in the area of environmental protection. I see a danger arising where the Environmental Protection Agency will end up being as useless in the eyes of the public as An Bord Pleanála.

My theory in relation to many of these decision-making bodies and the decision-making process in Ireland generally is that the nearer to the people a decision is made the more acceptable it becomes; the converse is that the more remote the decision-making the less satisfactory it is for the people. If less than satisfactory decisions are made, obviously they become less acceptable and that gives rise to all forms of pressure groups. We saw that in the planning area. Removing responsibility to so called independent groups makes our society a lot less democratic. Because it becomes less democratic we come nearer to anarchy if we continue to pursue that type of solution to problems.

Over the past decade the catch-cry has been to look for independent bodies to be established. The question I pose is — independence from whom? I presume that what people mean when they say that — even politicians — is that they are looking for bodies to be independent from politicians. We as politicians are doing ourselves a disservice by giving in to every call for an independent body. We have all dealt with independent bodies and the general public and we know that when the decision of the independent body is made and it does not suit a person, it is not the independent body that gets all the criticism but the politician. Politicians get it in the neck every time some so called independent body makes a decision. We have had plenty of examples of that over the last two months.

What I am saying is by way of an appeal to the Minister to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency has a limited role. Rather than giving them wide ranging functions and roles, the Minister should ensure that the local authorities get the finance for environmental protection work. They should be given the funds as they have been given them over the last number of years to prevent pollution being caused by themselves and by others. The role of the agency should be to set environmental quality objectives and standards. The agency should have support and back up services and should provide expertise in technical areas where such expertise may not be available at local level.

I agree with the role outlined — using the agency for monitoring the impact of industry on the environment and so on — but they should not be involved in the nitty gritty of day to day environmental matters. If they are, their effectiveness will be diluted and we will have another useless body on our hands.

One aspect of the agency's role as outlined in the Bill, with which I am not at all happy, is the licensing role for certain industries. It is a good idea for them to have an advisory role to the local authorities, as they will have the expertise, but it will cause endless problems if the Environmental Protection Agency have the licensing role separate to the local authority's role. How would licensing work? Would a company have to seek a licence first in relation to discharges or will they have to seek planning permission first? If they first require the licence, then the local authority is immediately put under pressure to grant planning permission and we will hear stories of local authorities being afraid to refuse planning permission because a company had a licence and there could be a compensation claim.

We will hear stories of companies having invested millions, once they got the licence, before applying for planning permission, assuming that they would automatically get planning permission. That would cause difficulties. Alternatively, a person could first get planning permission and having spent huge sums trying to get the planning permission, carrying out environmental impact assessments and so on they could be told they cannot have a licence. Will that also not give rise to difficulties?

I know there is a co-ordinating role between the local authorities and the agency but I see a grave difficulty here. I know they will consult, but the two functions should not be separated. I know they are separated in the legislation but that is a mistake. The Minister should look at that.

The major role of the Environmental Protection Agency should be mainly advisory and to provide expertise. The Environmental Protection Agency performance should be monitored closely by the Department and the Minister in the first few years, and if they are proving successful we should then extend their role.

The Environmental Protection Agency should also be involved in co-ordinating environmental policy across all Departments. The Department of Agriculture and Food will have one set of anti-pollution grants, the Department of the Environment another, and perhaps the Department of Industry and Commerce yet another. The Environmental Protection Agency should play a leading role in tying all these strands together and should produce a policy document to cover all aspects of development.

Subject to the reservations I have expressed, this Bill is a move in the right direction. I hope the agency will prove to be a lot more successful than some of the agencies set up in the past.

I welcome this Bill which has the acceptance of all sides of the House. It is an important Bill for a number of reasons. In recent times there has been a growing awareness of the importance of the environment. People are concerned by the various environmental problems in the community. Our general awareness is manifested, for instance, in anti-litter campaigns and campaigns to keep certain areas clean.

The growth of recycling co-ops throughout the country is very welcome. There is a positive attitude towards the environment and it is important that people should not be frustrated in their efforts but that they should be encouraged as much as possible. In my own county we have led the way in setting up a recycling co-operative. The people involved are very enthusiastic but unless they receive support from the statutory agencies, including the local councils and the Department of the Environment, they will become frustrated.

It is unfortunate that the Minister is not here. I was involved recently in trying to set up a recycling group in my home town of Listowel. I had many problems getting premises as well as getting the process off the ground. We are trying to encourage groups to do something about this, but these people should be getting more support, and the only type of support we can give them is financial support. Unless they get that their efforts will be frustrated. I say that sincerely because I know the Minister is doing her best in this respect and has in the past aided the recycling co-op in Tralee. The support has to be substantial to ensure the viability of these initiatives.

I am also very concerned that not enough environmental awareness programmes are being introduced into our schools. The environment should be a core subject in the curriculum of primary and secondary schools. We need to educate our young people to respect the environment and not to litter it. This would be possible with a positive education programme. In the past, however, our anti-litter campaign has been carried out in an ad hoc fashion with no continuity. There is a publicity week aimed at keeping our environment clean, but we are inclined to forget about it during the other 51 weeks of the year. Such campaigns should be continuously reinforced so that people will bear it in mind that it is important to keep our environment clean.

It should be helpful to have local cleanups involving, for example, keeping the school yard clean, because quite often the school yard is the most littered part of the community. This implies some acceptance of litter and is the wrong attitude for young people. An awareness of the importance of the environment should start at school and in the home and, hopefully, it will spread out to the community at large. The schools have a very important role to play. I know this is a different subject from the agency but it is related and it is very important. We should have regular public education programmes in our national media and on local radio stations for the population at large.

Our higher education institutions also have a major role to play by way of research. They have the expertise available to them. They have the facilities and, the laboratories, and they could do a lot more in this respect. Two immediate examples of work being undertaken in this area come to mind. The RTC in Sligo are doing very valuable work on ground water. In my own college in Tralee they are doing internationally recognised work in composting and animal waste. The Minister was in Tralee some time ago and is aware of this. These are just two examples of how our higher education institutes could become involved with effect.

A number of speakers mentioned that it is very important from the point of view of tourism that we keep our environment clean. We are lucky here in that the industrial revolution hit England and the other European countries years before it affected Ireland. Much of the damage that has been done to our environment is not irreversible or irreparable. We could reverse the damage and bring our rivers and lakes back to what they were with a little effort and care on the part of the population in general.

I do not have to remind the House that over three million people visited Ireland in 1990. These people are not coming for the sunshine, they are coming for fresh air, and mostly for environmental reasons. That is something we have to sell more and more. Compared to the environmental situation in many other countries, Ireland can still claim to be the garden of Europe. Our lakes and rivers are largely unpolluted and the air is generally swept clean by the prevailing winds.

However, we cannot be complacent. I would like to refer briefly to the book "Guests of the Nation" by Robert Allen. He described how, despite planning permission, things have gone wrong for this country in the past. He pointed out several examples, including the 1979 disaster at Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay, the Hanrahan case and several other cases. We cannot be complacent just because we have a reasonable record. We cannot allow the impression to be given that everything is well and and that we need not do anything. Indeed, as has been pointed out by a large number of speakers, including the previous speaker, Deputy Dempsey, we have major problems and we will just have to face them. For that reason I welcome the Environmental Protection Agency Bill.

There have been considerable advances in environmental law legislation here over the last few years. The three remaining areas of environmental law that have been identified are air, waste and water. In relation to air we have the Air Pollution Act, 1987, and this is amended by the current Bill and other Bills.

I am pleased that noise has been included in this Bill as an environmental consideration as this is of growing importance to our lifestyle. Previous speakers mentioned that smell or odour was not included. Probably provision should have been made for this and it may be made when the Bill is amended further on Committee Stage.

In the area of waste I understand that a new Act will have to be prepared to meet EC Directives and I would like the Minister to confirm this. It is a pity we did not update our law in relation to this Act. The existing laws in Statutory Instruments Nos. 33/1982, 390/1979 and 108/1984 are woefully inadequate. This is generally accepted and we have been reminded of this on several occasions in our county councils. This will be known to every member of every county council with the perpetual problem of waste disposal, landfills, etc. In this regard I welcome section 60 of this Bill. However, I wonder why waste management plans are not included under section 100. Perhaps the Minister will refer to that when she replies.

Regarding water, the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts, 1977 and 1990, cover this area. It too is referred to in this Bill. We can never be complacent in regard to water pollution. Only last week I noticed in the "Consumer Choice" magazine that of the 19 samples taken in County Kerry, Listowel was the only one over the aluminium sulphate limit. This has disturbed many local people. Even though we have a modern treatment plant in the town we must be forever vigilant because this is obviously not carrying out the functions we thought it would. We still have water of inferior quality in our town despite the existence of that plant. The message is that even though we have modern sewage treatment plants we must continue to be vigilant in regard to water quality.

I welcome the provisions contained in Part IV of the Bill dealing with integrated pollution control even though I foresee difficulties initially with such an approach. It is fair to say therefore that there are specific Acts and regulations in force which give wide powers to control environmental damage and that in general these are in line with the European situation. The industrialist coming to this country is faced with the knowledge that there is an environmental regime in place while for the environmentalist — I am glad to note there is an increased concern about the environment, as I mentioned earlier — there is a readily available group of Acts and regulations which set out environmental protection rights.

The rules and game are in place as laid down in the Acts which have been introduced in recent times. What we are dealing with here today are the powers and duties of the referee, in this case the Environmental Protection Agency, who will be a standards setting and enforcement body. They will be given wide powers by this Bill and previous Acts. Therefore they will be the cornerstone on which the Acts will operate. If they act and work properly then the environmental regime will work properly. It is to this concern, striking a balance between working standards and operating an environmental system properly, that my remarks will be addressed this evening.

Like all legal controls and problems it is a question of getting the balance right. This matter has been referred to by most speakers. If the balance is against industry then damage will be done in relation to a problem which is far greater in this country than anywhere else in Europe, the prospects of employment and the resultant problem of emigration. If industrialists and other economic promotional and development groups find the regime too penal they will leave or not come at all. We must have regard therefore to the other penalties against industry and development in this country — for example, our peripherality, lack of mineral and natural resources and very cruel tax regime. These are obstacles in the way of bringing industry to this country. We do not want to create any more. If we do not look at the broad picture industry will not come or stay. I am very concerned about this matter and I wish to place my concern on the record. It would not be my wish that sacred cows about the environment would be created in the form of legal barriers to development. There has been a tendency of late to regard environmentalists as the good guys and industrialists as the bad guys, but that is an over-simplification of the position.

The function of the agency must be to protect the environment in a reasoned and reasonable way and to allow growth, which is so necessary. There is little point in having a beautiful environment populated by rabbits only. In a recent newspaper article somebody described the part of the country that I and my colleague, Deputy Reynolds, come from, the west, as being the wilderness west. Unfortunately, with ever increasing rapidity this is becoming true. We may even reach the stage when we will be able to quote the poet as saying: ill fares the land, the environment is beautiful and men decay.

Enforcement must always use two carrots and one stick, and no pun on the word "rabbit" is intended. There are obviously going to be difficulties with established industry some of which will not have the resources to meet theoretical desirable standards. The consideration of individual cases under section 5 of the Bill by the agency will be a matter of urgency and prime importance. While industry must act responsibly it must be allowed to remain economically viable. That is true in the case of farming also. I know of several farmers who will be forced out of business as a result of investing heavily in pollution control measures when less elaborate arrangements could have been made. They were advised to build elaborate slatted units which cost a large amount of money, but with the fall in agricultural incomes they cannot afford them. They will be forced out of business even though they could have resorted to more simpler arrangements. The same could happen in industry.

I would like to refer briefly to the question of standards. The most important function of the Environmental Protection Agency will be to set standards. What is of concern to me is that these standards are not set out in any definitive way in the Acts and are not reviewable by this House. Ultimately, this House should be responsible to the people for industrial and other development, the protection of the environment and striking the balance between them. The House should deal with both these aims regularly and the way in which they are balanced. This will be a matter of particular importance during the next ten years or so in view of the rapid changes in technology, knowledge, emerging work patterns and lifestyles. Handing it over to the Environmental Protection Agency may be something of a cop-out. It will be necessary for this House to regularly control the situation and to understand and monitor what is going on in the Environmental Protection Agency, as it should in the case of the Industrial Development Authority. This point has been made forcibly already today by previous speakers. For example, Deputies Allen and Durkan were at pains to point this out.

Will this House have any control over the activities of the Environmental Protection Agency? It is the experience of Deputies on all sides of this House when they ask questions about the Industrial Development Authority that they are told they are not the responsibility of the Minister. Will the Minister for the Environment tell the House in a Dáil reply after a serious disaster in some part of the country that this matter is not his responsibility? That is not right. We are the custodians of the environment and, as Deputy Dempsey said, we will be blamed eventually. It will not be the members of the Environmental Protection Agency who will be blamed but rather the politicians, irrespective of which party they belong to. For this reason we should monitor and control the work of the agency in the future and we should be able to raise questions in the Dáil relating to their activities.

It is important that we keep control and have a say to make sure that the Environmental Protection Agency act in the national interest and are fair, just and reasonable. That is what both lobbies, the industrial development lobby and the environmental lobby, require. They require reasonable standards of control especially when it comes to the issuing of licences. They want standards which are reasonable and necessary and which will be enforced impartially, properly and fully, information on these to be made available and the appeals system to operate fairly. That is what we will have to give them.

It is very important that neither side are forced to operate in isolation or are frustrated by unreasonable standards or conduct. Reasonable conduct is what everybody should require. That would include reasonable conduct by this House in monitoring, as the ultimate democratic institution, the standards to be set. All the Acts and regulations require that standards be set. While they lay down general guidelines on what is important from both the industrialist's and environmentalist's point of view, it is necessary that these standards be clear, reasonable and operable. Otherwise all these rules and regulations will be merely pieces of paper which intimidate or frustrate people. Much work has to be done by the agency in this regard. Not only will they have to set standards for Ireland, they will have to do so in the European context and to some extent in a world context.

The directors of the agency will have much work to do. The composition of the selection committee under section 21 causes me concern because it seems that they are all Dublin based. There should not be selection on a closed shop basis of what will be seen as Dublin do-gooders — you may refer to them in whatever way you like. In general the directors will have to deal with non-Dublin activities. It is obvious from the Bill that the directors will be living in Dublin, which goes against the whole principle of a balanced viewpoint. One must live in a place, or at least in the region, to fully understand it.

The action, or inaction, of the agency should be reviewed regularly by a committee of this House. I hope that the operation of section 51 of the Bill will not be a mere formality and that reports are referred to an appropriate committee which should have before them the views of experts on both sides, the industrial economic developer and the environmentalists' lobby. I would specifically include in the environmental developer group our agricultural sector as it is wrongly regarded as the ugly duckling on a number of fronts, including the environment. Deputy Boylan went to great pains to exonerate the agricultural sector from much of the blame laid at their door in the past.

The committee could monitor whether standards are too rigid or too lax and they should be able to bring the matter back to this House to enforce reasonable standards. As I understand it, the present position is that standards imposed by county councils apply to fixed emissions and do not normally take into account air and other water controls. I want to refer briefly to this area. To give a simple example, there is in water a 20/30 standard and county councils fix a load or emissions quantity standard having regard to them. It seems irrelevant to the council what the flow in the river is; standards are fixed which do not take account of the flow at any particular time. However, it is obvious that in a period of high water allowing considerably more effluent into the river does not do any damage. However, an industrialist cannot do this and there should be more flexibility in regard to this matter. It might be useful to be able to offload effluent at such a period so that industrialists could store it during a lower water period. Rivers vary considerably in capacity but no account is taken of this. The industrialists obviously will be frustrated by a single standard with a single quantity objective despite variances in the surrounding circumstances. These variations will need to be fully researched and I hope that there will be five working directors, visiting locations, listening to people and interpreting the needs of each area. I am pleased to note that the directors will be independent and full-time. They have much to do in establishing the balance to which I referred above, industry by industry, area by area and indeed region by region.

I hope that the Environmental Protection Agency will have the desired effect. It is vitally important that we preserve and protect our environment, not just for the present generation but for future generations. We made a major start in the last four years in bringing forward law in this House. Now our objective should be to ensure that the law is enforced and that we have the proper resources available to us. We should give these resources to the Environmental Protection Agency, county councils and other bodies involved in pollution control to ensure that they can put this law in place.

It is a very elaborate Bill which will take a lot of interpretation, but to put the various provisions of this and the other Bills in place we need resources. It is no use having legislation unless it is implemented. While I welcome the Bill I appeal to the Government, if they are committed to the environment, to make the funds available to the various agencies so that they can implement the law.

I congratulate the Minister of State and all concerned in the preparation of this very comprehensive Bill. I will not be repetitive but I should like to deal with one specific aspect of the Bill, environmental protection, which has not been adequately dealt with. I refer to the disposal of hazardous toxic waste, something which has concentrated the minds of the people in my own constituency for some time now.

Members will have been aware of the highly organised demonstration which took place last week outside the gates of this House. Representatives of dozens of groups from Donegal and Derry were there to express their deep concern about the proposed plans to build a toxic waste incinerator at the Du Pont plant in Derry of sufficient size to deal with all the waste of the Thirty-two Counties. This plan has been fiercely opposed by virtually every responsible body in Derry and Donegal in spite of the assurances from Du Pont that the so-called state of the art equipment will render the whole process safe. This has certainly not been the experience elsewhere. The environmental organisation, Greenpeace, have demonstrated that it has been impossible in Europe and in the United States to identify all the toxic emissions from an incinerator or the chemical residues in white ash.

In Donegal, the Inishowen Peninsula, just across the river from Du Pont, is in the unfortunate position of being directly in the path of the prevailing south-westerly wind, downwind of the proposed site. It is not surprising therefore that the people who live there are worried stiff about the implications for their health, not to mention the possible consequences for agriculture and tourism. The Du Pont incinerator is estimated to cost £40 million sterling and it would appear that the plan depends on whether the Irish Government are prepared, in the words of Dr. Ian Madden, deputy director of Du Pont, to partly fund its construction and then to direct all toxic waste from the Republic to Derry.

The greatest part of this waste will be transported through substandard roads in Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan and the dangers from road accidents involving tankers and other containers travelling on those roads is obvious. Du Pont recently announced that they are proceeding with an environmental impact assessment of the proposal. However, it has also been stressd by Dr. Madden that our Government would not have a role in this assessment or in the running of the incinerator — in other words, we are invited to contribute our money but to give them carte blanche from then on. This proposal is quite intolerable.

The sad part is that, as far as Donegal County Council and others are concerned, the perception is that the Minister for the Environment and those involved appear to have given the project their blessing, at least in principle, without consulting those people directly concerned. The Minister is reported to have said that Ireland could not support more than one such incinerator. I wonder whether the Minister, or the Minister of State, or any Member of the House would readily support the siting of an incinerator in his or her constituency. I very much doubt it. Is there a feeling here that this is something that can be safely consigned out of harms way to that far-flung outpost named Donegal? I can assure the House that Donegal people are not primitive tribesmen who can be pacified with multi-coloured beads.

I suggest that the whole idea of providing a single toxic waste disposal unit for the entire country is unwise to say the least. The siting of a national incinerator in Derry would serve to attract what we described as dirty industries to the northwest; we can certainly do with industries but not at the expense of human health and the destruction of tourism which is our single most likely vehicle for generating employment.

I can find no specific reference in the Bill to toxic waste disposal apart from one line in section 60 which lists, among other things, co-disposal of industrial and other wastes in relation to those matters which involve the selection of landfill sites for waste disposal. The words "toxic waste" are not included and I assume they are not meant to be dealt with in relation to landfill sites. I strongly recommend therefore that the Minister seriously consider the acceptance of an amendment which would deal specifically with this matter and with the precise powers of the agency in relation to it.

What we require here is not one incinerator but a list of all producers of toxic waste in the State, with details of the amount of waste involved and to what extent, if any, these producers are engaged in a programme of toxic waste reduction. The ideal target would be zero production of toxic waste, but the only way we can hope to achieve that is to make each producer responsible under strictly enforced laws for the safe disposal of this type of waste. To provide a national incinerator would be to discourage industrialists from making a genuine effort to eliminate the production of hazardous waste in the first place. Are we being told that it is only possible to construct an incinerator which deals with 20,000 tonnes of waste, liquid and solid? Is it not feasible to have a smaller plant for each factory or group of factories in a particular area?

I am told that the greatest part of toxic waste production here is in Cork, Dublin and other centres in the southern part of Ireland. I have a recurring nightmare in which I see tankers and trucks loaded with lethal material heading day and night towards Lough Foyle and I wonder how often they will overturn or crash on our narrow roads. I am talking here of journeys of up to 300 miles or more on a regular basis in all types of weather. I appeal to the Minister to give this matter serious consideration and, if possible, to propose the necessary amendment that I have requested.

Finally, I would like to refer to the issue of The Irish Times of 7 September 1991, a copy of which I will gladly supply to the Minister. An article written by Denis Coughlan outlines the concern expressed about the rapidly growing practice of producing round bale silage. He refers to it as the polythene pollution revolution. According to Teagasc statistics, in the counties of Galway, Mayo, Roscommon and Clare 50,000 hectares of round bale silage will be produced this year. That will mean that ten million sheets of polythene will be discarded in those four counties alone, and that figure, of course, would be multiplied if we take into consideration the other counties in Ireland.

This type of silage making entails the wrapping of the grass or hay in bales covered with layers of ever-lasting plastic. The advantages are numerous and the process eliminates concern about weather conditions and haymaking and also reduces the possibility of silage effluent into rivers and other waterways. However, the presence of millions of sheets of plastic in fields and hedgerows on an ever-increasing basis is likely to be a cause of great concern. It appears that the only way to deal with this problem is to ensure that all or most of the plastic is collected and hopefully recycled. It would involve a great deal of organisation and probably further regulations to deal with what Mr. Coughlan referred to as the polythene pollution revolution. I will be interested in the Minister's comments on those two matters. I heartily congratulate the Minister and all those concerned with this very comprehensive Bill. I am sure it will be a total success when it is implemented properly.

I would like to deal with some aspects of the Bill in a broad sense. As a number of Deputies have said, it has taken an immense amount of time to prepare this Bill which will have great effect on different societies here.

Much thought and reflection must be given to this matter. As my colleague, Deputy Deenihan, said, it is essential that a line be drawn between environmental protection and industrial progress. People must be seen to get fair play. At present the environmental lobby is very strong and articulate and portrays its views very well while industrialists are seen in a general sense as the bad guys of society.

There is an underlying problem here of high unemployment. Employment opportunities must not be missed but at the same time we must draw a line between the environment and industrial policy. That has not been done adequately over the past few years and is something that the Environmental Protection Agency will have to take on board. They will have to set out policies to protect the environment and industry will have to toe the line as far as the guidelines are concerned. It is essential from an industrial point of view that the cowboys of these industries, those who do not take environmental protection seriously, are weeded out and made pay for their illegal actions.

The Environmental Protection Agency must be seen to be independent. I am glad to note that they will be an independent agency but they must be seen to act independently. They cannot be seen to be the arm of Government or of the environmental lobby. The House too has a role to play in this matter. It is to be hoped that we will not have to go to the Government in one or two years' time with cap in hand looking for more finance for the agency. Sufficient moneys should be provided in the Estimates to allow the agency to carry out their very necessary and worthwhile work. Unfortunately, we do not know how much finance will be made available by the Government for the agency but if they do not receive sufficient financial backing to do their job properly the whole exercise will be farcical. At that stage the agency will not be taken seriously by organisations and individuals whom they have to keep in line. Will the Minister outline specifically how the agency will be funded and the financial implications of this Bill?

Various Deputies have referred to the fact that the environment is the greatest asset we can hand on to our children and grandchildren. As it is the only thing we can hold on to it is up to us to protect it. A number of Deputies said that environmental education should be part of the educational system and we should educate people about the importance of the environment. I know that is not the function of the agency but the agency could take it on board and in conjunction with the Department of Education they could initiate educational programmes. It is very important that students in both primary and secondary schools are educated in how to look after the environment. If this is a gradual process it will in the long term make the job of the agency a great deal easier in addition to improving the potential of this country. We all know that we have thumped our chests to show how proud we are to have such a clean, green environment. Over the past number of months we have seen instances where the beef industry, for example, have tried to portray an image of cleanliness and of our grass fed cattle. This is a very important image for this country and it creates opportunities for jobs. Unfortunately people took advantage of that and a great deal of damage has been done to that industry. It is extremely important that we learn from the mistakes made and that we do not repeat them.

I would like to take this opportunity to compliment the excellent environmental department in Sligo Regional Technical College which is in my constituency. As my colleague, Deputy Deenihan, has so kindly pointed out, they have done tremendous work in ground water research. Research is necessary to bring us to the forefront in making environmental impact assessments.

When legislation is being introduced in this House it reminds me that we are one of the best countries for producing legislation but we have great difficulty policing our laws. This goes back to the matter of finance and it is important that the Environmental Protection Agency is given the financial commitment so that it can enforce the law.

In my part of the country tourism is extremely important. There are 50 lakes in a 15 mile radius and the water in our rivers and lakes is very clean. However, over the past number of years a great many farmers have had to spend a great deal of money trying to rectify sources of pollution. This has created some animosity towards tourism because the farming community were seen to be the bad guys. They have been advised by the Department of Agriculture ten or 15 years ago to install a certain type of tank to take the silage slurry, but ten years down the line they were told that it was totally inadequate and that the effluent was a source of pollution to the rivers and lakes and they would have to spend large amounts of money to rectify this during a time of declining agricultural markets. Unfortunately this puts farmers in a very difficult position. It is important that this is cleared up in the not too distant future and that the Environmental Protection Agency are seen to act fairly to these people.

The local authorities were charged with implementing the pollution Acts. I recall reading that the pollution of Lough Sheelin, which fortunately in one sense is not in my constituency — and Deputy Cotter will know more about it than I — was thought to be caused by intensive farming in the area, and indeed that may be so in part, but a consultant carrying out an independent study found that the Ballyjamesduff sewerage scheme was one of the major contributors to pollution within Lough Sheelin. It seems farcical that the Department of the Environment would be one of the major contributors to pollution and that due to a lack of finance it took them a number of years before they allocated adequate resources for a proper sewerage scheme in Ballyjamesduff in order to stop that source of pollution. I have a list of areas in both Counties Sligo and Leitrim where this situation pertains. In my own town of Ballinamore a great deal of money is being spent on the reopening of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal. We need financial assistance to provide a sewerage treatment plant because raw sewage flows into the canal at Ballinamore and that will not be a pretty site for any tourist who may wish to take a boat trip on the canal when the work is completed. If one arm of the Department of the Environment are responsible for enacting this legislation and the lack of resources from another arm of the Department is causing pollution, the whole situation becomes farcical. I recall that a year to 18 months ago the Minister for the Environment made a press statement in which he said £100 million — please correct me if I am wrong — would be spent on the environment on sewerage schemes etc. within the next five to ten years. It is very important this money is spent quickly and correctly. In Leitrim for example in Drumsna, Jamestown and Dromod which is along the Shannon and a high density tourist area, they are awaiting sewerage schemes for the last six years. The Cloonnacool sewerage scheme in Sligo is also important. There is also the north Sligo regional water supply.

Debate adjourned.