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

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

When I spoke on Thursday last I said that the Bill was long awaited and that I hoped the provisions would be implemented as quickly as possible but that I had serious reservations about the accountability of the agency when put in place. I said that without accountability this agency would be open to a fair level of mistrust and I gave as an example the performance of An Bord Pleanála in recent times.

My confidence in An Bord Pleanála is very low. The label of being independent should not mean that it is not accountable. I hope there will be changes in this legislation on Committee Stage to ensure proper accountability on the part of the agency so that they will not be given a free rein to do what they like. We need an agency, but far more important, we need a comprehensive national environmental policy. We do not have one and we have seen recent examples where the lack of such a policy has caused considerable problems for industry here.

The most recent was in Cork yesterday where a multi-national pound extension is being delayed at the possible cost of jobs because of objections from local groups. I will not go into the rights and wrongs of that issue at present because it is a matter of appeal. The point I am trying to make is that groups throughout the length and breadth of this country have no confidence in the authorities' ability to protect their rights, their livelihoods and their health. They have no confidence in the local authorities and the other bodies that I outlined last week because these bodies have not the powers, the resources or the manpower to safeguard the rights of the people.

It is important that a proper agency be set up as quickly as possible. Jobs are being lost because of the lack of a comprehensive environmental policy. There is the example of the total lack of a national waste management policy. We have a problem as to how we dispose of our toxic and chemical waste and our low level and high level nuclear waste from research institutions and hospitals. We do not have a policy; we do not have a mechanism to dispose of this waste within our own territorial limits. We are dependent on Britain to dispose of that waste and that dependency compromises us seriously in our attitude to Britain in relation to her nuclear disposal policy, be it on her own shores, or in the Irish Sea or the Atlantic. We are totally compromised and much of the bravado and shooting from the hip of Ministers of the present Government when they were in opposition has been neutralised and stifled because they now see they are totally compromised when they approach Britain in relation to her nuclear policy.

It is about time we got our act together and had a policy. The most recent copout and the most recent example of an Irish solution to an Irish problem was the outrageous attitude of the Minister for the Environment, who is now hoping that the people of Derry and Du Pont will take care of our problems in relation to chemical and toxic waste. It is a short-sighted, narrow cul-de-sac policy which is getting us nowhere. It is about time that the relevant Ministers had the political guts to put a policy before this House and the people which would eliminate and resolve our problems. What I am saying is that jobs are being lost daily because industrialists are refusing to come to this country because they are being left in the dark and are not being informed what they would be able to do with their chemical and toxic waste if they set up operations here. This is costing us jobs daily.

I hope that once the agency are set up not only will they have the legislative powers but the resources to implement many of these provisions. We are a great country for making laws but we are very bad at implementing them. I hope the resources will be made available to the local authorities and the agency to implement many of the provisions contained in the Bill. Without the ability to implement and enforce the law it will become only a mockery and will be ignored.

The state of the environment is extremely serious. In spite of some improvements in certain areas the situation as a whole is continuing to deteriorate. It would be totally irresponsible of all of us to delay drastic action any longer. Radical decisions which will affect everyone are unavoidable. The improvement of environmental quality and the very survival of mankind, long term, are at stake. In recent times we have seen worrying statements in relation to the ozone layer. Far reaching decisions which will affect everyone will have to be made. Even our behaviour in our own homes will have to be re-examined. Unless we set a different course quickly and resolutely we are heading towards an environmental catastrophe. The only way to avoid this is to lay a basis now for sustainable development, not only on a global basis but nationally.

We must set out what resources we intend to apply to this struggle to give us a clean and safe environment. It is no longer enough for the Government to make laws and regulations. As I said already, we must have the resources to implement these laws and ensure that the people who would be affected by these laws comply with them. There must be implementation of these laws and a positive active attitude on the part of everybody in this country in order to realise the objective of a clean environment. No matter how well a policy is thought out and written down it must be implemented or else nothing will happen. Here again I question the commitment of the Government in view of the inadequate allocations of resources made to date to the agencies in place to implement the law as it stands.

All the hype about the Green Presidency, about which we heard so much some months ago and again during this debate, will come to nothing if financial resources are not made available to the agencies in place at present to implement the law. I want to repeat again that I am amazed at the number of agencies dealing with the environment in place at present. There is an overlap, a disjointed effort, but major gaps and gross inefficiency also. It is about time we got our act together. Not only must there be a policy, there must be implementation of that policy as well as co-operation from all sectors of the community. As I said already, there must be a national environmental policy, which we do not have to date. Along with a policy there must be a will on the part of everybody to tackle the environmental issues affecting this country and the planet. I would like to set out a number of the issues which must be tackled in the near future.

There must be a target group policy to target different sectors of the community. For example, the agricultural sector, the personnel who deal with traffic control and transport, industry, the energy sector, the building trade and the local authorities must be targeted individually to ensure everyone is doing their bit and duty in relation to environmental control. We must get our research and educational institutions working even more efficiently on this issue. They have made a major contribution so far to the small amount that has been done; but encouragement, especially financial encouragement, must be given to the research and educational institutions to tackle the problems which face us.

The consumers, by which I mean all of us, are now an extremely important group. We must, as consumers, take up the fight. All aspects of society must be asked to make large efforts. The environmental problems which face us today warrant this. I would like to set out some of the goals which I would like to see met in the years ahead.

In the agricultural community at present major improvments have been made in farm management despite the difficulties in Europe. The use of agricultural fertilisers, new techniques and technology and pesticides has improved the output from our farmers; but the improvements have brought about an inherent risk. We have seen during the past few years fish kills and pollution of our waterways. In 1982, when I focused in on this issue I was accused by a local authority environmental officer of being alarmist. I said the day would come when water supplies would be polluted seriously and lives would be put at risk, but I was told I was being alarmist. That day has come. We have seen serious pollution of our waterways in the months that have gone by and in recent weeks not too far away from here. This is something we must tackle.

The farming community have been very responsible and responsive to the challenge of the use of new technology in farming, but a greater effort must be made by Government agencies and everybody in the farming community to eliminate the risks which remain. We must therefore set targets for the agricultural community to reduce ammonia emissions, there must be a balanced programme of fertilisation, a drop in the use of pesticides, encouragement for the agricultural community to set up environmentally friendly projects, an improvement in slurry management and, as I said, an intensification of research into sustainable natural agricultural methods.

We must also focus in on this area in the transport sector because, with the growth in the urban sprawl which is so evident throughout our cities at present, the questions of travelling to work, mobility and the transportation of people and goods must be looked at and managed. The level of mobility has increased dramatically with the growth in the urban sprawl. We must encourage the regeneration of our inner cities and encourage people to develop them even more. This has happened in a small way. On the one hand we are encouraging people to come back into our inner cities, but on the other we are driving them out with stupid, narrow short term policy decisions. That is a matter for another day, but I ask the Government to focus in on the question of our inner cities and the environmental standards of our inner cities.

There must be a major drive to make our inner cities more attractive for our people not only to work in but to live in. We must look at the impact of road developments and infrastructure on the living conditions of people in our cities. The most recent example, which became a national issue, was the proposed road through the Middle Parish in Cork city. As in every dispute there are rights and wrongs on both sides but the most important consideration for any development such as that should be the people living there and, too often, those living in an area are thought of last.

Another example is a local one in Cork, the major proposed project in the Blackpool area, a fly-over across a residential and shopping area, which will deface it. In theory environmental impact studies are done but the mechanisms available for ordinary people to respond to these studies are almost nil. They are given one month to respond to a technical complex document and, if they do not respond within that time, they have lost their chance. Ordinary communities do not have the resources or the ability to get together a response to environmental impact studies in one month. I ask for more flexibility for communities so that they can respond in a proper way, feel involved in decision-making and not just affected by it. In Blackpool a study was done on the environmental impact which the project would have but, when the people in the area sought an extension of the time to submit a considered response, they were refused it which is very sad. Those people, at their own expense, had to get legal and technical advice and, to their credit, they did so. The result of all this will mean delays, disputes recriminations and bitterness because, eventually, there will be a public inquiry involving greater costs to the Exchequer and greater trauma for everybody. This could be avoided if there was a little bit of thought, consideration and flexibility and more important structures should be in place to deal with the needs of ordinary people.

We had the issues of Blackpool, the Middle Parish and, yesterday, the matter of Schering Plough. I am not saying who is right or wrong but the lack of structures is undermining the confidence of people in the authorities. When confidence goes disputes arise. That is the lesson of Merrell Dow and the lesson of many lost projects involving the loss of many jobs. I hope that this agency will bring confidence back to our community by protecting the people's interest and creating a balance between industrial development and environmental protection because, at present, that balance and confidence does not exist. When dealing with the construction of roadways, we must take the landscape, the natural environment and the environment of the people living in the area into consideration.

Traffic and transportation also account for an increasingly large share of consumption of energy and raw materials. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the following issues to be attended to. People must be advised, not only nationwide, but globally, to reduce the emissions of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons from cars, especially from commercial vehicles, over the next number of years. We must control the increase in the emission of carbon monoxides and, as well as concentrating on the level of smog in Dublin, we must look at the levels of carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide in our cities and towns throughout the country. I detect an air of complacency about the problem of smog in areas outside Dublin. There is an increasing problem in that regard in Cork and other cities and we must tackle the issue before it becomes a major problem. I hope that the Government will initiate a policy which will encourage people to transfer from solid fuels to natural gas and other fuels which cause less pollution. It has been done in Dublin to an extent, I know that the Minister of State has a genuine interest in this matter which may not be matched by the resources at her disposal, but I ask her to consider that there is an increasing problem throughout the country and that local authorities do not have the financial resources or the technology to deal with it adequately.

All passenger cars — this is not just a national issue but one for car manufacturers — should have a catalytic converter to reduce the level of emissions. Raw materials used by car manufacturers should be recyclable so that abandoned cars are not strewn all over the country. Structural decisions must be taken to reduce the need for mobility and issues in relation to urban renewal and inner city living must be tied in directly to environmental protection and control. There must be more encouragement for the use of bicycles; the small number of bicycle lanes show that people are actively discouraged, by the structure of our roads, from using bicycles. Bicycle lanes must be set up in our towns and cities throughout the country and we must expand and improve bicycle routes.

We made a major mistake many decades ago when we ran down the quality of our train services and closed many of our rail lines. We are still doing it. It was a short-sighted policy which drove articulated vehicles on to our roadways where as, if the railways had been kept open, they would have taken much of the pressure off the roads at present. Unfortunately, we have not learnt a lesson from the mistakes made in the fifties and sixties, we are still continuing to run down our rail lines. For example, in relation to the Cork-Cobh line, one project says that it should be part of a major project for Cobh but, on the other hand, another agency is running down the train service there. What will happen? We will have more buses, trucks, cars and lorries choking our roads and polluting our environment when an efficient train service would help to reduce the problem. There are many other examples, indeed our main line services are at present being run down. The whole policy of public transportation should be an environmental issue instead of being purely a transport problem. Efforts should be made to improve transportation, stimulate its use and get people more involved. There should be a major campaign to encourage people to use public transport. Tied in with that there should be development of our rail transport, but that is not happening.

The whole industrial sector is the most important target group. However, it is difficult to describe in a few words precisely what is expected from this group since numerous different companies are involved. In broad outline what should be expected of each of them is that they thoroughly investigate the environmental aspects of their operations. I appeal to industry to increase the level of internal inspection and examination of their operations from an environmental point of view. Internal environmental concern should become an important pillar of industrial policy. I suggest that the industries look at their levels of sulphur dioxide emissions. There must be a reduction in emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. Our State companies are no angels in this regard. I shall refer briefly to Moneypoint, the emissions from Moneypoint and environmental damage being done as a result.

The emissions of phosphorus and nitrogen into surface water must be reduced. As I said waste production must be reduced substantially by recycling and chemical treatment. The waste management problem at present is the most important and vital issue that faces industry here. What are we going to do with our industrial waste? We do not have a policy to deal with it. I am labouring the point, but we are hoping for an easy copout, that somebody else will take our waste.

I mentioned previously the embarrassment I felt when I visited Sellafield three years ago. Like Deputy Gerard Brady, I was critical of Windscale, now Sellafield, from the early eighties when it was not a political issue here. When I visited that plant I was highly embarrassed when the management who took us to a treatment area some distance from the plant posed the question, if it were not for their operation what would we do with the nuclear waste from our hospitals, universities and research institutes? He said that they were taking it because we did not have a facility to deal with it. As a backbench Deputy, I felt very embarrassed and compromised when dealing with British Nuclear Fuels and the British Government on that visit. I wonder how embarrassed and compromised Government Ministers must be when dealing with that issue. It is time we got our act together, behaved responsibly and courageously and set out a policy of waste management that will not allow cop-outs such as sending our waste to Derry or to areas outside the jurisdiction. We should deal with the issue within our own territorial limits, something that is not being done at present.

Last week the Minister for the Environment on the one hand said — I could not believe what I heard — that waste management and the treatment of waste was being actively considered and options were being looked at — the usual departmental waffle — while on the other hand he said that Du Pont in Derry was an option. It is an option but a cowardly one. Let us be realistic and realise that in a few years' time we will be told by the European Community to solve our own waste management problems. We will not be allowed export our waste to places outside our territorial limits. It is time we set out our policies and made decisions so that we will not be running around like headless chickens in a few years' time when the European Community will force us to make decisions.

The industrial sector, particularly the chemical industry, can play a major part in achieving many of these objectives. Not only is this a very large part of our industrial sector but it uses large quantities of hazardous substances. I know that the Federation of Irish Chemical Industries, whether through the pharmaceutical or chemical sectors, are doing their utmost to improve their operations on a daily basis, but their efforts are being undermined by a lack of structures and regulations. We saw an example of that yesterday with the objection to the Schering Plough extension in Cork, a multimillion pound extension. That company are beginning to lose heart, and their parent company will look elsewhere in future when considering developments or extensions of units in Europe.

We must consider the whole question of industrial accidents involving hazardous chemicals. I hope there will be greater emphasis on this matter. In the energy sector we must achieve a further reduction in pollution as well as promoting energy conservation. Important objectives should include a substantial reduction of sulphur dioxide emissions by power plants, such as Moneypoint, as well as a substantial reduction in nitrogen oxides. There must be greater concern for environmental issues among our semi-State companies. There must be a more intensive public relations campaign by these companies to distribute public information and give incentives to consumers to stimulate more energy consumption.

The construction industry has a role to play in this regard because the building trade uses large quantities of raw materials, the reserves of which are inexhaustible. These raw materials are taken from the ground at a cost to the environment. How often do we see our countryside defaced by sandpits and quarrypits? This has a major impact on nature and the landscape. Therefore, the construction industry has a major impact on our environment by its choice of raw materials. Greater research should be carried out in this regard. The demolition of abandoned buildings generates waste which contributes to pollution of the environment. For these reasons we need to focus more on the construction industry.

We should attempt to double the recycling of construction and demolition waste. We should replace materials whose recovery or use have serious environmental impacts. There must be a greater increase in energy conservation in heating systems and construction quality must be improved by producing environmentally friendly products. The Government have a major part to play because some State buildings are impositions on our landscape. I refer to a building erected in Cork in recent years, the Government buildings on Sullivan's Quay. This building is totally out of character with the surrounding area. Consultation took place with the local authority and the building was erected without planning permission. That building is a disgrace to any Government Department because it is totally out of character with the surrounding area. That came about because of a defect in our planning laws which gives a free hand to Government projects. The Government therefore have a responsibility to ensure that new buildings blend in with and complement the surrounding areas.

I have dealt adequately with the whole question of waste management, but I would ask the Minister — I acknowledge she has made an investment in recycling in certain areas — to put greater emphasis on the collection of recyclable waste and that greater encouragement, particularly financial incentives, be given to local authorities to upgrade their recycling programmes. The recycling programme at local authority level is in its infancy. It is not being developed because the local authorities do not have the resources even to collect and dispose of waste in landfill sites, so how can we then expect them to develop a recycling policy?

The landfill sites throughout the country are a blot on our landscape. The Cork landfill site, which has been in the news in recent times, is a terrible imposition on the surrounding area and is considered a serious health hazard and imposition on the quality of life of residents in the area. There must be a greater emphasis on the management of sanitary landfills and there must be a shift from the policy of filling holes in the ground to a policy of recycling and of incinerating waste. We must look again at incineration. I know that incineration of waste has its down side — I would have to question many of the incinerator operations, especially hospital incinerators — but I believe that properly controlled incineration can achieve a great deal. In addition to disposing of the waste, the heat generated can be used. Some years ago I visited Malmo in Sweden where they disposed of their waste by incineration and the heat generated by incineration was used to heat houses in the surrounding area. It can have a twofold benefit.

The dumping of domestic and commercial waste must decrease considerably and greater emphasis must be placed on the disposal of waste by recycling, incineration and chemical treatments. In the long term all dumping sites must satisfy stringent environmental standards. That is not being done at present because the local authorities do not have the resources to dispose of waste in a manner that will satisfy residents in these areas. In fact the local authority in Cork are spending a great deal of money employing consultants to find a solution to bring the sanitary landfill site at Kinsale Road up to a standard that the residents wish and it is an uphill task.

Structures must be improved in order to achieve our goal for the disposal of waste and therefore all local authorities must be involved in a big way in waste policy. Research institutions such as our universities and colleges will have to pay more attention to projects aimed at environmentally friendly sustainable developments. The development of systems of environmental concern will be an important part and, to be fair, our research and educational institutions are making a valiant effort to get involved in environmental projects. They have to date made an important contribution to the environmental issue. However, as I have said before, they are hindered by the lack of a waste management policy; indeed, waste has to be exported.

Consumers are the biggest group and, in addition to the other target groups, we as consumers have a special role to play. Whoever acts in an environmentally friendly way at home is more likely to do so at work and in other areas. For example, the public is expected to store all chemical waste, tin, glass, paper separately for waste collection and this must be done in conjunction with the local authorities. Not only should the local authorities and recycling firms be involved but we must co-operate with them at a personal level.

The consumption of electricity will have to decrease and we will have to drive our cars less and make greater use of public transport. If we do not start to do this now we will be forced to do so in the years ahead. Therefore it would be better to make a start now. It will be a major challenge to get all sections of the community to work together. The Government will have to face up to this task; otherwise we will be like the barbarians of old and will plunder the earth and our children and grandchildren will inherit this dreadful legacy.

The message that this earth is not our property must be put across clearly. We have a loan of this earth and we have the responsibility not only to pass it on as good as we got it but to face the challenge of improving it. There are abundant opportunities for sustainable development. The Government must give the lead, so we must have daring creativity and the will to take advantage of the goodwill that exists for the environment at present.

I welcome the Bill in broad outline, but I have serious reservations about the lack of accountability of the proposed agency. I would compare it with An Bord Pleanála, an independent body, who are not held accountable for their actions. We have seen too much of what this lack of accountability can lead to in recent times. My party will be tabling amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage so that the elected Members and those who elected them will have a say in the management of our environment.

I welcome the Bill also, but it is long overdue. It will require a great deal of research and expenditure to implement the provisions of the Bill. At this stage I would like to compliment the Minister of State and the Department of the Environment on their efforts to protect the environment. As I said previously, it will require heavy expenditure from both the State and the private sector.

If we are to develop tourism, especially at a time when it is one of the few real options for the small and medium sized farmer with the present restrictions on the traditional areas of production, meat and milk, we need to promote a friendly environment. Pollution originates from four main sources — commercial and agricultural enterprises, the local authorities and the private sector. One would have to say that our environment was neglected in the seventies and eighties with the intensification of production and the increased use of fertilisers. The watercourses, rivers and lakes were greatly polluted. However, we have to admit that over the past number of years we have made a terrific improvement, and nothing contributed more to this than the measures introduced by the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy O'Kennedy, in 1989 when he introduced anti-pollution grants. Substantial grant aid of as much as 55 per cent of cost was given for underground slurry tanks in cattle yards and sheds. The water quality in all areas has been improved greatly as a result. Fish kills, too, have reduced substantially during the past several years, despite criticism of them. I believe that the introduction of those anti-pollution measures was a great breakthrough. None of us from rural areas could ever have anticipated when those grants become available that such a good take-up would have occurred or that such a responsible position would be taken by farmers and industries. The grants have resulted in great improvements.

Commercial plants have been criticised for emissions into streams but it has to be realised that plants for the slaughter of cattle, pigs or poultry especially have a real problem because of the amount of waste generated. Co-ops also face the problem of much waste being created from the run-off from milk and so on. The treatment and control of waste is a high annual cost for those plants. Many plants — there are several of them in my own county — had to purchase farms of substantial size so that treated waste could be pumped and sprayed across the land and run-off from the plants could be absorbed into the soil.

Local authorities have also been criticised, but an amazing amount of money has been provided for several years for sewage treatment plants, for extensions to them and for water schemes. The amount spent on sewerage works by any county would far exceed the amount provided for road structures, which are so essential and about which there is so much talk. No mention is made about the millions of pounds that are being provided for and used to improve local authority sewerage plants and without which hardly any town or village in the country would have had a sewerage system that was not obsolete and did not require massive expenditure for newly constructed sewerage plants.

Problems are caused for the private sector too. Septic tanks can cause many difficulties and their structures deteriorate with the passage of years. There again much expenditure is incurred and much responsibility is shown with the checks that are kept by health inspectors. I pay tribute to health inspectors for the work they have done on the domestic scene as well as in the industrial and agricultural sectors.

The greatest concern has to be shown our water sources to ensure that they are kept pollution free. Many years ago there was little to be said in this country about the good supply of quality water. However, that has deteriorated and now, for various reasons, our water supplies face real problems. Most towns and areas are dependent on open water sources. Some open water sources have fairly large catchment areas and often nitrates from farmland have found their way into those water sources.

Much research and survey work has been done on underground sources and aquafers. Deep well drilling and aquafers, the underground supplies of water, seem to be the best way to go towards the provision of quality water. There is great need for quality water in a country that places so much emphasis on the food industry and food production. Quality water is needed in our co-ops for milk production and on our farms for both the cleaning of equipment and the cooling of milk. Good work has been done but a lot more could be done. There is need for much research. When the EC draft directive on nitrates comes into operation, the Minister should set up pilot schemes in particular areas that have problems with regard to water supplies so that close examination can be undertaken. Now that EC funding is available it behoves us to make the best possible use of it to improve water supplies.

Every speaker on this debate has his or her own problem areas in relation to waste disposal and anti-pollution measures. We have heard about the problems in Cork and similar statements could come from representatives of different parts of the country. We in the north-east region have our own problems. It is an area that has intense production in both the poultry and mushroom industries. Both industries create massive tonnages of waste. The poultry industry alone in a small portion of Louth, east Cavan and primarily the northern part of County Monaghan, where I come from, generate 120,000 tonnes of dry litter a year. Then there is extra litter from layers, which has a different impact. Luckily, the mushroom industry absorbs about 50,000 tonnes of the 120,000 tonnes of dry litter, but 70,000 tonnes remain. There was no problem with that remainder this year because we had a dry year, the land was dry and the litter could be spread on it. However, in the wet years — even last Christmas and in the spring — there is a real problem concerning the storage and then the dumping of the waste. It is reckoned that about two million bags of waste mushroom compost is produced each year. In my own part of County Monaghan the mushroom industry generate something like 3,500 tonnes of waste compost a week, a very big tonnage. Because that compost is in plastic bags it is not suitable for spreading on farmland, and most of it is dumped in disused quarries, old bogs and old wasteland. That could present a serious problem for the future.

In the past couple of years, and especially in the past 12 months, I have been in touch with various Departments but I have been disappointed at the general reaction I received because their attitude is to pass the problem over to somebody else. I have been in touch with the Department of Energy on behalf of an entrepreneur who wanted to set up a plant that would burn the litter and generate electricity. Tests on that area had been carried out in other countries and it was reckoned that the litter would amount to 50 per cent of the value of solid fuel. I had discussion with the Minister for Energy who recommended that I contact the ESB in this matter. There the problem was that, unless highly subsidised, the price they would pay for electricity generated outside their stations would not be economic. In County Monaghan we have one small plant generating electricity to provide heat for growing mushrooms and tomatoes, a succesful enterprise in recent years.

In Britain the Department of Defence devised a scheme under which the type of waste and litter is utilised, this involves massive tonnage. Such a scheme should be examined with a view to implementation here. I tabled a number of parliamentary questions requesting the Department of Energy, Agriculture and Food, Tourism and Transport and Communications and so on, to co-ordinate their efforts to ascertain what could be done in this area. I know each has been undertaken on the usage of compost and litter in order to produce a viable garden compost. We must remember since this is a fertiliser as well as a compost it must have potential. The Department will have to provide additional assistance to ensure that such matters receive attention.

There was reference to refuse dumps and waste management, the most serious problems confronting local authorities at present. A survey was undertaken some years ago on indiscriminate dumping when it was discovered that there were 55 unofficial dumps throughout the country. There was a clamp down on such unofficial dumps leading to a substantial improvement in the overall position. Nonetheless people continue to be irresponsible. By that I mean people tend to put plastic bags containing any type of waste in the boots of their cars then drive at night to dump them into a bog or field. That is a disgusting practice.

Local authorities experience considerable difficulties in the mangement and maintenance of dumps and in securing land for such dumps in that it is becoming ever more difficult to get people to make land available, even poor quality land, for a dump site. It must be remembered also that, if one is to adhere to EC rules and regulations, massive tonnages of soil must be moved for this purpose.

There will have to be a partial recycling of much of that dumped waste where paper, cardboard and so on is kept. There was a small industry in my county some years ago that used such material as a fuel, being made into something similar to a compressed Bord na Móna briquette, a slow burning fuel. However, it turned out not be an economic proposition. That leads one to believe that if there were grant aid or assistance given, people engaged in that type of business, in all probability, would be successful because the material is there.

Representatives of any local authorities will tell you that one of the greatest problems they encountered was the disposal of plastic bags and tetrapack milk containers which, I believe, are very difficult to burn. In addition, it is my belief that, in any one county, one would be talking about the disposal of approximately 50,000 to 60,000 such containers per day. Therefore, it will be readily seen that, when commercial enterprises change their systems packaging and/or disposal, this can cause enormous problems for local authorities, particularly in the disposal of containers they may have introduced without prior consultation with local authorities.

In the area I represent there is enormous concern about that type of waste. When one of those EC cross-Border initiatives was introduced it was our belief that such programme would facilitate joint cross-Border schemes in that there were mushrooms growing either side of the Border in north Monaghan, particularly in a substantial way in the Armagh region. In that connection I contacted the powers that be requesting them to consider funding for the establishment of plants, whether for the generation of electricity or the production of compost or some other product in order to utilise such waste materials. In August last when the joint INTERREG programme for North and South was approved, it had the blessing of the EC. That programme incorporated a number of anti-pollution measures, especially those relating to the quality of water. In the Lough Foyle catchment area there was a 75 per cent grant allocated for that purpose, the highest grant provided for anti-pollution measures, with the exception of those granted for afforestation. In the Lough Foyle estuary there was a proposed expenditure of 1.5 million ECUs, representing approximately £1.25 million, that is, on part of the South and Northern Ireland. Of course, that is one of the foremost salmon fishing regions in the area. On the east coast something over £6.8 million has been spent improving the quality of water in Lough Neagh. In our area we have made strong representations to the respective Departments to undertake research into the quality of such waters.

My fear is that the working parties of civil servants engaged in the implementation of anti-pollution measures funded by EC Structural Funds, by the INTERREG or Leader programmes have some objective in mind, whether that be a specific development vis-á-vis tourism or some other project and it is very difficult to get them to move away from such objective. The time has come when members of local authorities must have more input into meetings of such working parties when EC funding is being provided so that they will be able to exert their influence to the benefit of their respective areas. Deputy McGahon must be as disappointed as I that such funding initially appears substantial but, within a short period, one is told it has all been expended with meagre benefits only visible on the ground. That is one matter that concerns me greatly.

We public representatives are concerned in that we cannot object to the imposition of penalties or adherence to strict monitoring and so on when many farmers and industrialists making great efforts to get their act together, involving huge expenditure, find themselves prematurely before the courts facing severe penalties. There should be recognition of the efforts made by such people and it is a real pity that more consideration is not given to them.

I welcome the debate on this much publicised and long overdue Bill. The Labour Party will seek to strengthen substantially the proposed Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that it will be truly representative and that it will have wide-ranging terms of reference and the powers to carry out its function effectively. This agency must remain fully accountable to the general public at all stages and fully independent of all vested interests. In the current climate it is more important than ever that the agency should be impartial in every way.

I compliment the Minister of State for her handling of the Bill in the Seanad where she was prepared to accept amendments submitted by Opposition Senators. I hope she will be in the same frame of mind during the Bill's passage through this House. This is the way to deal with complex and wide-ranging legislation.

I refer to section 106 of the Bill. Subsection (4) states that this section shall not apply to noise caused by aircraft. This is a scandalous and deliberate omission, particularly as there are no legislative provisions governing this environmental problem, which has been acknowledged by medical experts throughout the world as a danger to health. This fact has not been acknowledged by the Government.

Recently I attended a conference on Irish transport. Mr. Neil Gleeson, the managing director of IATA, outlined the major problems in the aviation industry, particularly in America, where in the years 1978-90 there were 269 carriers and where today there are 73 carriers. Notwithstanding those difficulties, it is acknowledged by the aviation industry worldwide that a noise pollution problem exists and it is being addressed in the EC and elsewhere. I am concerned, however, that it has not been included in the Bill.

Civil aviation is acknowledged as one of the most dynamic industries and it is no surprise that the development of airports is having a dramatic effect on local communities. There are two sides to this. On the positive side industries have mushroomed around airports, with the creation of thousands of new jobs. In excess of 8,000 people are employed in the general area of Dublin Airport. I acknowledge the benefits of the airport to the country as a whole and particularly to north County Dublin and I look forward to further expansion in the years to come.

It must also be stressed, however, that the aviation industry causes enormous disturbances when an airport is located within or near a village, town or city. The noise pollution caused by aircraft is a major problem for local residents, because in Ireland there are no maximum noise limits and no laws to protect residents or to compensate them for the cost of necessary insulation works. A major problem exists in my constituency. The village of St. Margaret's, once known as the quietest village in Ireland, and surrounding areas have been very badly affected by noise pollution as a consequence of the construction of the new runway at Dublin Airport. Having visited many of the affected homes I have witnessed effects on residents. These include the limited use of telephones, televisions and radios during the course of the day, disruptions of conversation, effects on children's concentration and on study, damage to various houses, a fall in the valuation of property and general stress and health problems.

An impasse has existed for the past two years between the residents and Aer Rianta regarding the degree of insulation required in the dwellings in question. In view of the total lack of legislation in this field, Aer Rianta have been empowered by the Minister for Tourism and Transport to come to a reasonable agreement with the residents. In effect, the Minister has passed the ball to Aer Rianta. It is unacceptable that the Minister should ask public servants, who are indirectly the noise polluters in this instance and who will ultimately have to finance the scheme, to resolve the problem on his behalf. It is only reasonable to assume that they would be looking over their shoulders at the Minister, particularly as they would be setting precedents for other areas as well. There are no precedents in this area at present and they would be looking to Shannon Airport and other regional airports to set these.

It is precisely for this reason that I believe it is time for a truly independent body to be appointed to assess disturbances caused by aircraft noise and to advise and recommend on the protection of the environment around airports. The proposed Environmental Protection Agency should be that body. The Minister may not be prepared to accept my suggestion, but I hope she will. If she does not accept it I would ask her to outline why this should not be the case.

The Environmental Protection Agency should also look at the system of noise measurement generally around airports. They could act as an umbrella body who would appoint a competent group of people to assess our present noise measurement system and the problems caused by noise. A system which has been used for many years by Aer Rianta and airports in other countries is the NNI system, the noise and number index system. It is true to say that there has been international criticism of the NNI system, particularly by groups who have experienced some of the more unusual combinations of work and noise factors. Furthermore, international calls have been made for the replacement of the NNI system. Aer Rianta have basically said that homes within the 50 NNI contours area should be entitled to compensation or insulation grants. Many of the people I have visited in Turnapin, The Baskin, Rivermead, Killeek Lane, the North Road and rural areas in Mulhuddart believe they have been discriminated against. Having listened to the noise of these aircraft I believe they have a case which needs to be answered. Property in some of those areas has been damaged and glass has fallen out of windows because of the noise level of aircraft.

The question has been asked: who should pay for an adequate insulation system? During the oil crisis surcharges were imposed by airlines on passengers. In the interests of the general public and the people residing in these areas it should be possible to increase landing charges — I am talking in terms of pennies — to cover the cost of insulation grants which would give peace of mind back to the residents and communities in these areas. In order to ensure that Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta are not discriminated against in any way, a policy should be implemented across the board at EC level in this area. I would ask the Government to look seriously at this issue.

It is my sincere wish — I hope the Minister will convey my wishes to the Government — that the ongoing dispute between the people of St. Margaret's and Aer Rianta can be resolved. Eolas have been invited to become involved in the dispute. I know they have indicated an interest in this dispute and that they are working on this at present. The cases put forward by Aer Lingus and the residents should be investigated and Eolas should be given the power by the Government to make recommendations in this area. It is important that an independent organisation such as Eolas would put forward recommendations on what improvements, if any, are required. Hopefully, this can be done, so that the people of that area can live in harmony together and the signs referred to Aer Lingus as a bad neighbour can be removed.

As a Deputy who represents a constituency which is near the coast another area of concern to me is the pollution of the Irish Sea. In this regard there is a clear overlap between international and domestic concerns. The Irish Sea has become one of the most radioactive seas in the world. This has been caused substantially by discharges from Sellafield. The growth in the amount of nuclear waste products being sent to the Sellafield reprocessing plant poses an ever increasing risk to the Irish Sea. This traffic is set to increase with the threatened expansion of Sellafield to include a nuclear waste dump. I hope the Environmental Protection Agency will highlight our concerns in this area so that action will be taken.

I want to say very clearly that both this Government and the previous Government failed the Irish people in their attitude to Sellafield.

Both Governments made many promises about the action they would ask the British Government to take in relation to Sellafield. The then Minister, Deputy Burke, stated very clearly at that time that he would be prepared to bring the British Government before the European Court of Justice. However, this has not happened. I now call on the British Government to reject the proposals for the expansion of the Sellafield reprocessing plant to include a nuclear waste storage facility, to take the wishes of the Irish people and Government into account and to close down this plant.

The Irish Sea is also increasingly at risk from the activities of nuclear powered and armed submarines which constantly traverse its waters. This activity must be monitored. I hope the new agency will have a role in this area, if for no other reason than to protect fishing vessels and their crews. Many of these vessels have been damaged and there has been some loss of life. People in my constituency who have lost their boats have had their future put at risk. Many of these people are now unemployed and they have no recourse to the law, either nationally or internationally, to seek compensation which would enable them to purchase new trawlers and so get back into business. I know people who have had to emigrate because of this problem. On those occasions the Government washed their hands of it, saying it was not their problem, but rather it was a civil matter. We all are aware and the Government are aware that submarines are using the central channel but, unfortunately, we have not been able to deal with them.

The condition of the Irish Sea cannot be blamed 100 per cent on Sellafield as there are substantial toxic discharges coming from various points along the Irish coastline. The state of our beaches cannot be blamed on someone else. Even today, with our knowledge of the dangers for such actions we are still pumping raw sewage onto our beaches. It is important in the context of this Bill that we have a unity of purpose with the Government on the need to deal with our environment. There is little use in passing this Bill if the Government are not prepared to deal with the problem. It is vital that the upgrading of effluent treatment and disposal plants is given a high priority. It is important that a close relationship exist at all stages with the Department of the Environment and the agency when it is established.

In my constituency there is an urgent need for new treatment plants for the towns of Balbriggan, Skerries, Rush, Lusk and Loughshinny. Those towns have been identified by the council in correspondence to the Department. Indeed, I received numerous complaints regarding the untreated discharge of sewage from the existing overloaded systems in many of those areas. In this context I noted with concern a letter from the Department of the Environment, dated 27 February, to Dublin County Council which stated that the Department are restricting capital expenditure for new schemes discharging into coastal waters from urban areas representing 10,000 of a population equivalent or more. What is to be done for towns with a population of less than 10,000? Are we saying that because they have a population of less than 10,000 they will have to wait? Will untreated sewage continue to be dumped into the Irish Sea? How long can those towns wait for a proper system? The laying of a long pipe into the Irish Sea can no longer be regarded as a solution. We need secondary treatment facilities in those areas if we are to encourage people to use our waters for recreational purposes and improve our environment. I demand, in the interests of the general public and our environment, that this regulation should not prevent medium-sized towns from securing their much needed full secondary treatment facilities.

The Irish Wildbird Conservancy has been concerned for a number of years with the operations of Balleally tiphead at Rogerstown estuary. This estuary is frequented by many wading birds and wild fowl in winter, and, in recognition of its importance, it has been given national nature reserve status. The Irish Wildbird Conservancy produced a report on the conservation of the estuary for wildlife in August 1990, which was circulated to all authorities involved including the various Departments and Dublin County Council. Balleally tiphead is licensed to receive domestic and non-toxic industrial waste. However, this waste does contain toxic substances, particularly heavy metals. Studies by the environmental science unit of Trinity College have shown that the mud in the estuary is contaminated with cadmium, lead and copper and that these toxic metals come from the tiphead. There is no physical barrier to stop the leachate from entering the estuary, where it is absorbed by mud and by the plants and animals in the estuary.

In view of this it is vital that Dublin County Council install a leachate containment system as a matter of priority. That should be a general principle of the agency and the Government. At present there is only one leachate containment system in the Twenty-six Counties. Dublin County Council could recoup the cost by collecting landfill gas which could be sold. The technology for installing such a system is readily available. The Environmental Protection Agency should be to the forefront in recommending that all landfill sites be provided with a leachate containment system. If that facility was provided we would not have the European Commission deciding to commence proceedings against Ireland for alleged infringements of EC Directives 75/442 EC on Waste, 85/337 EC on Environmental Impact Assessment and 79/409 EC on the Conservation of Wild Birds. These proceedings refer to Balleally. This is why it is important that action be taken.

I should like to refer briefly to public transport and the interaction between the need for proper public transport and the environment generally. In Dublin traffic congestion has reached terminal proportions. This has been brought about by a pre-occupation with providing for private cars over decades, combined with a failure by various Governments to develop a proper public transport alternative system. This is having a major impact on our environment and is creating social and economic problems in our city. We cannot have independent groups or Departments working on their own. There must be an overall policy to improve the environment and that does not exist at present. We should seriously consider the need for adequate public transport. The Labour Party hope to see a light rail transport system being established in Dublin. At the moment every morning in Dublin people are faced with traffic congestion, pollution and so on. When one considers that one bus has the equivalent capacity of 30 cars and when one considers the savings that could be made in fuel consumption and so on, it is a scandal that the Government have failed miserably to invest adequately in public transport. The Government programme for 1989 to 1993 shows a projected investment in roads of £615 million as against a projected investment of £36 million in public transport. Where is the commitment to the environment in a policy like that and where is our commitment to public transport? Ministers indicate that they are in favour of developing public transport and later indicate that they are in favour of private transport. The investment figures projected for transport and for roads shows a ratio of 17:1 in favour of roads.

One can only be encouraged by the extent and condition of public transport in Europe. In Germany in 1987 the ratio of investment in roads and public transport was 4:1 in favour of roads and was dropping. The same thing is occurring in France and in most other European countries. They see the necessity for an efficient public transport system. If we provide the infrastructure people will leave their cars at home and will use public transport. The advent of the DART system has brought about a 30 per cent increase in public transport use in that area. The DART has provided an economic advantage along its route in that the value of property has increased. Such a system provides a boost for an area, although one must question why the commitment was given to that area. I hope the Minister will recognise that the contents of this Bill can be linked with an overall policy covering all these areas.

As a coastal constituency representative I am conscious of the need for greater public awareness in relation to litter. I know the Minister is concerned about this and has provided finance for various schemes to improve coastline environments. The Environmental Protection Agency should be in a position to actively encourage development in this area. It would not require much money. With the expenditure of small amounts of money we could create a greater awareness among the public, and local authorities could also make a commitment to improve. We should expand clean-up activities, especially at weekends and during bank holidays. Seaside towns anywhere in Ireland but particularly in the greater Dublin area are inundated with litter at weekends, particularly bank holiday weekends. Litter bins are too small or they are not being emptied frequently enough.

I appreciate the fact that the manager and staff of Dublin County Council have responded to the needs from their limited financial resource. However, they can only work on the basis of the finance available. If the finance is not available, or if it is not directed in a particular way by Government, many schemes to improve the environment cannot be implemented.

This year £1 million has been provided to get the agency up and running, but I wonder if that commitment will be sustained on the basis of what we know about future constraints in relation to the economy generally and the further cutbacks that are in the offing.

In an effort to improve, we should modify our litter bin designs and we should implement more frequent emptying of litter bins. That would not cost a lot of money. I know, for instance, that county council workers work on the Saturday morning of a bank holiday, but the council only have the resources to employ them until 12 o'clock. To create greater awareness we should put more "Bring your litter home" signs at intervals along beaches. People are more aware of the environment and we should encourage that awareness by doing this.

We must address the problem relating to plastic materials. There is a need for greater reduction in the use of plastic and for the provision of bio-degradable alternatives. While I am on the subject of beaches and the environment generally, I would like to record the need for the provision of public toilets on or adjacent to our beaches. It is scandalous that in Portrane, for instance, a seaside town in my area, for the last six years there has not been a public toilet in the area. It is scandalous that people should have to be under a compliment to, for instance, the local publican for the use of a toilet, especially in a seaside town which has secured a blue flag. A directive should go from the agency to the various local authorities to ensure that a commitment is made to the provision of public toilets in popular seaside villages and towns. If we are to facilitate these minimal improvements we need further resources. I hope the Minister will make commitments in this area. A central theme of environment protection is planning. A socially just environment cannot be achieved without proper planning. I see a role for the agency here.

The absence of proper planning in our society over many years has resulted in massive suburban sprawl around our major towns and cities with a consequent decline and running down of the inner city areas with its devastating effect on the environment. This suburban sprawl is frequently ugly, badly serviced with community facilities, unevenly developed and totally without an efficient system of public transport.

Our population is currently growing faster than any other in western Europe. In addition we are still urbanising. Given this great pressure of growth, the environment is now at risk from potentially damaging development. In addition, because of our social system and inadequate planning machinery, our community is at full risk from unscrupulous developers, concerned only with exploiting communities for their private gain. I have to say here that, on the basis of some of the most recent legislation, there are fewer cowboys out there and it should be our policy to weed out the remainder in the years to come.

I wish to deal briefly with the role of the local authorities in monitoring atmospheric emissions and discharges into our water courses. Sections 66 and 67 deal with this area. There is a much greater awareness among the public nowadays of emissions and discharges particularly from factories and industry. There must be a balance between the need for industry and jobs and protection of the environment at large. Various concerns have been raised by people who see emissions into the atmosphere and discharges into waterways. Complaints have been made to the local authorities and to the factories concerned but there was no follow up. There was a lack of information. There was not consultation and many of the concerns could be dealt with if there was more consultation. In many cases there seems to have been a screen of secrecy in respect of some of the complaints and some of the information. I hope the agency being set up under this Bill will ensure that local authorities will continue to monitor the system and set up a mechanism whereby local concerned people could have access to information. Above all, they should have the resources at their disposal to ensure that this monitoring can take place.

I have been made aware that in some cases lack of resources has restricted the type of monitoring that is required. That is not good enough. If we are committed in this area and want to encourage the participation of the general public then these areas must be dealt with. Section 65 of the Bill, for example, states that the agency shall exercise general supervision over the monitoring carried out by local authorities and such other public authorities as may be prescribed for the purpose of any enactment in relating to environmental protection. I am delighted to see that incorporated in the Bill. I hope it can be acted upon and that there will be no problem with regard to the necessary resources.

Basically we welcome the Bill. We believe that the natural environment is a basic resource held in trust by this generation. The environment extends from our coastal zone, overland, to include deposits of natural resources as well as the air we breath. We have learned in the past decades that the environment can be easily damaged and its ecological balance disturbed with a consequent threat to life. To date our knowledge of how our environment functions is limited. In order to manage our environment sensibly and responsibly on behalf of the community, it is essential that we considerably expand our knowledge of the environment and improve our monitoring systems.

This Bill goes some way towards redressing some of the problems. We in the Labour Party look forward to submitting amendments that will further strengthen the Bill. As I said earlier, I hope the Ministry and the Government will look in a positive manner at the proposals submitted by the Opposition and, hopefully, we can send forward a Bill that will be worthy of this Oireachtas.

I, too, welcome this Bill. I believe it to be a positive step which will bring about great cohesion, co-ordination and integration with regard to the whole environmental process. I would hope that there will be a consistency in our approach from now on with regard to the problems that face our environment and the future protection of our environment.

I believe this Bill will have the financial teeth to tackle pollution. I am also glad to see from a practical point of view that the maximum use will be made of the existing facilities, whether at local, regional or national level, deal with the particular problems. I am glad to see that the local region, the local authorities and the agency will be working hand in glove to deal with the problems that exist.

This agency will be an independent agency. This matter has been raised by many people. Naturally people would be anxious to see that such an agency would be independent of Government, independent of Ministers. Indeed, we feel that it is important that this transparency should be evident and because of the way it is proposed to set up this agency, I believe it will be professional, it will be an agency with integrity and it will be independent.

The one problem I see is the right of appeal. This view has been expressed by a number of people. I believe that having the only recourse to appeal in the High Court, might, because of the cost, mitigate against the individual or the smaller groups. The multinationals, perhaps, will be in a very different position and will be able to bring their case to the High Court. However, because of the costs involved it will be very different for the individual or for the smaller group because naturally they will not have the same financial backing as the larger groups and the multinationals.

I am glad to see too — and it is a very positive step — that this Bill is being welcomed by the Confederation of Irish Industry and by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. What we all want to see is a balance between industrial expansion and the protection of our environment and, as we have seen from the experiences in the United States and in other European countries, it has been particularly difficult to find this balance. We have to attempt to find it. I would not be too happy with some of the American solutions in this regard, but I hope in our own legislation we will find that happy balance.

The Confederation of Irish Industry are very anxious that due consideration will be given, in setting charges for licences and services to fund the agency, to the question of the competitiveness of Irish industry. That would be a very sensible approach and it is one which I am sure, the Minister and the Government will consider adopting.

In a recent article Mr. Frank Popoff, the president and chief executive of the Dow Chemical Corporation, said that the one issue above all else which will affect Dow's prospects in the nineties and beyond is the question of environmental protection. Any companies, in particular chemical companies, who fail to address the issue of the importance of the environment will, in his view, face extinction. The question of their responsibility to protect the environment will be particularly challenging for chemical companies during the next few years. I think they would be the first to realise that their press has been anything but positive or good and that they have an awful lot of work to do if they are to convince legislators and the general public that their industry are working to protect the environment as well as being in a position to give much needed jobs and employment.

I would be very interested to hear the Minister's view on the programme called "Responsible Care" which I understand has been implemented in the United States, Canada, Australia and several European countries. I would be interested in seeing how this could be implemented in our own legislation or encouraged — obviously on a much smaller scale. I would also be interested to hear what the Minister would have to say on the recent positive initiative, known as the business charter for substantial development, taken by the International Chamber of Commerce. It would be interesting to see if some of those ideas could be implemented to strengthen our view of environmental policy. I do not want to sound too cynical but the chemical companies to which I referred earlier are obviously trying to get a better press through the Responsible Care programme and other initiatives. I should say however that these initiatives do not originate necessarily from any altruistic motives, but whatever the motives they should be encouraged and promoted.

When talking about industrial development and the need to provide jobs it is very important to ensure that we live off the earth's interest and not its capital, thereby protecting jobs in the tourism sector and other spin-off industries, for example, while at the same time protecting the health and welfare of our citizens. Obviously the questions of providing jobs, particularly in the industrial sector, and of environmental protection are interlinked, which brings us back to the essential problem of striking a balance to make sure both can be protected.

Let me make a brief reference to the question of pollution in the agricultural sector. I listened carefully to my colleague, Deputy Leonard, who made specific reference to the problems facing the agricultural industry with regard to pollution. Like Deputy Leonard, I would like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate the Minister for Agriculture and Food for taking the initiative and introducing a grants scheme to prevent pollution in the agricultural sector. These grants were very much needed. As Deputy Leonard said, not only was this grants scheme acceptable but the farming community were encouraged to take them up, as shown by the number of grants taken up. These were very handsome grants and farmers were thankful for the foresight of the Minister in initiating this grants scheme long before any legislation, such as the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, was put into effect.

I was very interested in what the last Opposition speaker had to say about roads and railways and the pollution emanating from traffic on our roads. I find it very difficult to understand some of the arguments being put forward at present by Iarnród Éireann in my own constituency of County Clare where the Ennis railway station is under threat. Iarnród Éireann have said that in the case of some services passengers will be taken by road from Limerick to Ennis. If we are serious about trying to promote an area and making the best use of existing facilities I do not think the answer is to put more trucks and traffic on our roads when a railway station is already in existence. Further use should be made of the infrastructure already in place rather than causing other problems, which perhaps are yet unseen, on our roads.

Very often we in Ireland are accused of reacting to certain problems only when Directives are issued by the European Community. We are not the only country however to react to such encouragement. It is very interesting to note that some years ago public concern forced a response in America where the super fund legislation was introduced and that the dramatic London smog in 1953 led to the Clean Air Act, 1956. Furthermore, Britain's Environmental Protection Act was only initiated in 1990. I am glad to say therefore that we are up there with many other European countries and perhaps are ahead of some in that we feel that these problems are sufficiently important to deal with them in legislation. We look forward to improvements in our environment.

With regard to EC legislation, Articles 130R and 130T of the EC Treaty fix the rules for Community action in environmental matters. The European community has already issued 280 legally binding environmental measures and many more are proposed. It is interesting to note that the European Community has been influenced by the United States in enshrining the "polluter must pay" principle, which is incorporated in the Single European Act. The European Community environmental policy has two main objectives: (1) to promote and improve the quality of the environment in order to protect human health and (2) to ensure prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources.

Not all member states have a coherent and consistent environmental policy. The commission has had therefore to initiate a number of regulations and directives on access to information, air emissions from large combustion plants, the marketing of new chemical substances and the prevention of major accidents in industrial activities. The European Parliament has requested a Community wide pollution police or inspectorate. Again, I would very much like to hear what the Minister's views on this proposal are. I would also like to know if it is likely that this question will be raised at Council level and, if so, what our response will be on that issue.

Let me return to the pollution must -pay principle. This was first formulated by the OECD in the early seventies. The perceived benefit of this principle is that if the pollution results in great expense the polluter will attempt at least to lessen the offence. In the recent German pollution control law, effective since 1 January 1991, the onus is on the company to prove their innocence.

I should like the Minister to clarify how the EC Directive will influence the performance of the Environmental Protection Agency in relation to strict civil liabilities for damage caused by wastes. The European Parliament and the Commission have locked horns on this issue and it has not proved successful in the United States. I should also like to know whether the precautionary principle influenced the Environmental Protection Agency.

One of the very positive aspects of this Bill is the statutory effect it gives to the EC Directive 1990 on freedom of access to environmental information. There is a growing interest, even among schoolchildren, in the importance of the environment. They have done projects in relation to how they — and indeed every citizen — are in a position and have an obligation to protect their environment. There is now greater interest and knowledge than there ever was in relation to the importance of our environment and the fact that we will have further access to information will not only improve the knowledge already there but will help us in our quest for a cleaner environment. In conjunction with that, obviously we want to promote and co-ordinate further research in the whole environmental area. It is proposed to do that in the Bill and I support it.

The penalties, as pointed out by a number of contributors in the debate, are pretty high. However, I do not think that any Member should apologise for that because, very often, such proposals are the only way to deal with some of the worst offenders with regard to our environment, would-be and potential polluters. Unfortunately, this deterrent is necessary and I support it in the hope that it will bring some of the offenders to heel resulting in a better environment for all.

I strongly support the Bill and I am happy to be in a position to add my words of support to the Minister and the Government. In fairness, the Bill is supported on all sides of the House and we all know the importance of setting up the Environmental Protection Agency; it is something which we can all encourage.

Like other speakers, I welcome the Bill in general and I hope it achieves all it sets out to do. However, like many other Bills, it can only be effective if it is funded and implemented. One of the things I will always recall about the environment is attending a conference — I think it was in Luxembourg — in 1982 when a British delegate proudly announced that the first salmon had been caught in the River Thames in something like 20 years. It brought home to me the serious problems facing Europe and the world in general relating to pollution as a result of a number of changes which have come about without us realising it. They have taken place gradually, over a period of time, accepted procedures in agriculture and industry changing quite dramatically.

The general public — and indeed the legislators — were always advised by experts regarding the safeguards which were likely to be put in place. I have often said in this House that when two groups of experts on opposing sides come together they really and truly confuse all and sundry. They usually — and there is provision for this in the Bill — end up in court where they confuse all those who have not been confused before and, in turn, confuse themselves. We are left with the doubtful and confused conclusions that they did not really know what they were talking about in the first place. I say that deliberately on the basis that on issues such as pollution, the environment and toxic waste, etc., many groups of experts have over the years expressed conflicting views and held them steadfastly over a long period of time, and when ultimately some of their views and theories are proved to be unsound they then seem to withdraw gracefully from the arena and say that the information made available to them at the time they made their conclusions was perhaps unsound. That has happened many times in the past and it will happen again in the future. We must ensure in legislation that there is little room for manoeuvre, clearly state exactly what we have in mind and enforce the provisions.

Everybody recognises that there have been changes in agriculture and industry over the last number of years which have brought serious threats of pollution. Every single citizen of every country in one way or another is a potential threat to the environment and a possible source of pollution, depending on how they dispose of household waste, television sets, fridge-freezers and so on. Anybody taking a trip in any part of the countryside, particularly — and unfortunately — close to the edges of many of our towns and cities, will find ample evidence to strongly support the theory that many of our citizens are not responsible when it comes to disposing of their household waste. All members of local authorities will be able to cite, chapter and verse, instances where hundreds of tonnes of household waste of varying shapes and sizes have been found year after year within a half mile of many of our towns and villages. It is a sad reflection on our society. I will not name the towns although many of them are in my constituency. People will say this is because of lack of facilities for disposing of waste but I do not think that is an excuse. It is a disgraceful disregard for the environment, other people's rights and a total lack of civic spirit that that kind of outlandish behaviour should still continue at the end of the 20th century.

The changing methods of production and in general administration in agriculture and industry have undoubtedly increased the threat to pollution. Dealing with the agricultural side, I should like to see balance and indeed there is provision for this in the Bill. It is not impossible to virtually eliminate all threats of pollution from the agricultural sector. The facilities are there for people to avail of. Many people follow the guidelines and take great care to ensure that there is no pollution. Most of the farming community also take great care to ensure that there is no pollution although a minority as in every other sector, have a somewhat laid-back and cavalier attitude to the regulations. They hope they will not be caught, that it is a once-off offence and that nothing will happen. However, those things will happen and when they do can have very serious consequences, not only for the people in the immediate locality but for those many miles away. This is particularly important in relation to the pollution of watercourses, where at a distance of perhaps ten miles from the point at which the pollution occurs a serious incident could arise resulting in loss of life.

Almost 20 years ago many of us held the view that there was a threat of pollution from the extensive use of nitrogenous fertilisers. When nitrogenous fertilisers were first introduced in this country experts proved beyond a shadow of doubt that they were harmless, that nothing could go wrong. However, those of us without expert advice who held the view that it was a threat to pollution were right. The people who had been involved in the industry for years knew what they were doing and had a healthy respect for the environment, but unfortunately the attitude seemed to change around the early seventies with the intensive production of these fertilisers in tandem with European assistance and advice. I will refer to that matter in greater detail at a later stage. At that time everybody who was called upon to advise the farming community had the same advice to give, but unfortunately it has now been proven that they scarcely had the correct information at their disposal.

The possibility of pollution from modern intensive industry is much greater than was the case years ago. The concentration of pollutants is now so great that even a small quantity can have catastrophic effects throughout a whole community. Many of the sewage treatment plants are completely incapable of dealing with the concentrated pollutants that may get into the system. Even the most modern plants are not capable of controlling the kind of pollutants that emanate from some industries, particularly the chemical industry. I say that in the knowledge that we need to create jobs, but again there must be balance. There must be a healthy regard for the protection of our environment and our heritage for future generations. We should take into account all the knowledge of the particular firm involved. A firm must have technical information available to them as to the likely effects of discharges into the sewerage system, their chemists will tell them what the likely effects are. It is necessary that they have a healthy respect for the possible side effects and the damage that might be done. They should ensure that nothing happens that would have a detrimental effect on the environment.

I refer to these matters on the basis of perhaps the once-off pollutant that may get into the system. Accidents will always happen and we must provide for those. If an accident takes place we should not immediately close down half a dozen industries around the country. We have to maintain a balance. Neither should we close down half the farms as a result of a particular incident. We must try to eliminate the cause of the accident, make sure it does not recur and try to ensure that the people involved are fully conversant with the regulations and are fully aware of their responsibilities to the community, the environment and the country at large.

Occasionally an incident may occur which is not accidental. Let us take the case that arose a few years ago when an oil tanker deposited a load into a ditch on a national primary route. The oil flowed into the water course, into a tributary and eventually found its way into a reservoir, severely polluting the water. That offence was not accidental. It was caused deliberately by an individual who was not very concerned about the environment or about people's lives or health but was only concerned about getting from A to B in a given time with a given load. Whether such an incident occurs in the agricultural or the industrial sector, it is unpardonable. The provisions in the Bill — I have studied them in the same way as everybody else and I will not go through them in detail today — by way of penalties are necessary and I hope they will be effective. It is essential to differentiate between the accidental polluter and the deliberate polluter, and where the incident is deliberate there should be no doubt about the action taken.

The pollutants that are prevalent today are many and varied. There is air pollution, which has been referred to by many speakers, water pollution, noise pollution and odour pollution. There is pollution of visual amenities and pollution, if it can be called that, of irradiation. Much of the food we eat is subject to irradiation. There are those who say that irradiation causes pollution and those who say it does not. It extends the shelf life of a whole range of products, seriously interrupting the ecology of the whole system in an artificial way. This poses the question as to whether or not the process has been proven to be safe. Experts say it is quite safe, that there is nothing to worry about; but experts have given similar information in relation to other matters in the past and I have no doubt that at some stage in the future they will have second thoughts.

Let us now consider water pollution and how simple it is to upset the whole water supply system. In my constituency in the past few weeks an accident occurred — we hope it was an accident — whereby the water supply was polluted in almost half the town of Naas. First, it took virtually 24 hours of investigation to determine that a serious pollutant existed. In that period, a vital period in which to react to the problem, further damage was caused because it was not possible to indicate clearly to the public that the water supply was polluted to such an extent. Second, we should have been able to say quite clearly that the nature of the pollutant was such as to ensure that an order be given that the supply should not be used for several days. We were not in a position to give that order for the simple reason that we did not have the technical knowledge available to us which would clearly indicate that the system was polluted. The result was a very serious pollution of the water supply.

In that incident the possibility of serious damage to health arose as a result of pollution of the public water supply. In that case it was a well, ground water, that was polluted. This should bring to mind the vulnerability of the public water supply throughout the country in the reservoirs that supply this city and every city and town in the country. We should seriously consider the possible sources of pollution to those water supplies and recognise how vulnerable they are to pollution, either deliberate or accidental. We should try to eliminate in so far as we can those possibilities because public health is at stake, as can be seen from the case to which I have just referred.

Air pollution has been mentioned by a number of speakers and I will not deal with the matter in any detail except to say that the sources of air pollution are increasing. The information available to us, even in recent years, is not reassuring. When talking about the emissions from motor vehicles I must refer to Deputy Ryan's suggestion of the advisability of using public transport more often. I agree that those of us who can use public transport in their daily work should do so, but unfortunately some people cannot. He suggested that a bus could carry as many people as would travel in 30 cars. However, some of the buses I have seen would pollute the atmosphere to the same extent as 40 or 50 cars. This is a serious problem. While I accept and understand the point the Deputy was making in relation to public transport, we would need to upgrade the standard of many of these vehicles, particularly in built-up areas. If one drives along the quays on a wet morning one sees a blue haze rising from the exhausts and one would have to ask about the effects of inhaling these fumes. It is obviously not good for us. It is said that smoking is not good for us — even though I smoke — but I wonder how bad inhaling those fumes is for our health?

I now wish to refer to noise pollution. This comes up again and again, particularly in relation to the operation of factory premises close to residential areas. Granting planning permission is a matter for the local authorities, but when granting planning permission for a particular industry regard should be had to the level of noise that will be generated and which will affect the people who live in the area. They should find another location for noisy industry as people have a right to a reasonable quality of life and should not have to live within hearing distance of penetrating noises——

What about créches?

That noise can also be penetrating from time to time.

I will now refer to offensive odours. We have the best of intentions when we introduce a Bill. The setting up of an independent agency has merits and demerits. Odours emanating from agriculture processes affects rural areas. Some agricultural processes have been in operation for thousands of years. However, the odours from organic farming and other long standing processes may be offensive for a short time, but more intensive farming methods, such as slurry distribution, have caused more serious problems over the past number of years which will have to be dealt with.

A number of sewage treatment plants built over the past ten years are recognised as the most modern in Europe — indeed, technical experts were able to tell us that these were the most modern plants in Europe — yet two years later one could not pass within five miles of the plant without being overcome by an offensive odour. One such plant is situated in Osberstown in Naas, which the Minister will know quite well. In fact, if the prevailing wind is right the Minister should be able to detect this odour when he comes out of Rathangan.

Indeed, a similar problem exists in Leixlip. Although the plant has been upgraded at enormous expense three times in the past ten years — following the advice of technical experts, who were better paid than we are — and on every occasion the experts said the plant would cater for the larger population and would be absolutely trouble free, three weeks after they had finished the upgrading and had gone away, we had the same problem again. Hundreds of people protest about the offensive odour. When we ring up the experts they tell us that this odour should be eliminated now as extensive renovation works have been carried out and the problem should not occur again. Like me, I am sure the Minister, who must have dealt with this on countless occasions, is a little bit sceptical about these claims because I believe that many of these experts do not know what they are talking about, or the plants are not being operated in accordance with the conditions in the sales catalogue. Perhaps we are being conned; we are spending taxpayers' hard earned money upgrading the plants which at the end of the day, do not function as they are supposed to.

I am sure the Minister will also be aware that we have a grossly overloaded sewage treatment plant in Kilcullen. We have had numerous promises over the years that it would be upgraded and that it would link into the Osberstown plant — which is giving off the offensive odour. During the local elections a representative of the Progressive Democrats, who usually take the high moral ground, told the unfortunate people that a decision to provide the necessary funds to upgrade the plant at Kilcullen was imminent. A week later somebody else — very much in the tradition of Fianna Fáil — intimated to the local community once more that a firm commitment——

May I interrupt the Deputy? I think he is beginning to stray a little.

I admit that I am straying into political territory but this happened and it was referred to previously in this House.

Acting Chairman

I would prefer if the Deputy would refer his remarks to the Bill before us.

It is within the ambit of the Bill as it refers to pollution, which is the responsibility of the Government, and it refers also to a matter that was raised by at least four speakers in this House during Second Stage of this Bill. I make no apology for mentioning it again.

As I was saying before I was interrupted, a second intimation was made to the local community to the effect that a decision was imminent.

Acting Chairman

I wish to state again that as Acting Chairperson I do not accept the Deputy's use of the word "interruption". I hope I am clarifying for the Deputy what he should be speaking about and I would not interpret that as an interruption.

If the Chair bears with me for a couple of moments. Let me repeat that this was referred to by at least three speakers in this House on Second Stage. Since those people were not asked to deviate from what they were saying at the time I cannot see why I should either, the precedent has been set.

The second intimation to which I referred was made just prior to the local elections when it was repeated that an announcement was about to be made. The people held their breath, but nothing happened. Six months later, despite these repeated announcements nothing happened and we still have pollution of the River Liffey at Kilcullen.

Acting Chairman

Will Deputy Durkan please resume his seat for one moment? The Deputy is straying from the debate. I do not want to obstruct him when he is making his address but I appeal to him to speak on the Bill.

Section 59 empowers the Minister, after having regard to any criteria drawn up by the agency under subsection (4), to set mandatory standards for effluent discharges from sanitary authority plants, sewers and pipes. I want to say that that pollution is taking place now. It has taken place repeatedly and it is within the ambit of the Minister and the Minister of State and their Department to provide the necessary funds to eliminate the source of pollution to the public water supply, that is, the water we drink. Something needs to be done about that now; it is quite simple.

Another point I want to make is that when the agency are set up provision will be made that a local authority may be prosecuted in the event of failure to eliminate such pollutants. But will any provision be made to prosecute the Minister — whoever that Minister might be — who is in fact the person ultimately responsible for the provision of the necessary capital allocation to ensure that local authorities do not pollute public water supplies in that fashion? The Bill makes no provision, nor is any provision likely to be made, that will in any way assist to eliminate that very serious threat to public health.

One other area in the category of possible pollutants that I want to mention comes within the ambit of local authorities and comes ultimately within the ambit of the Minister, whether it be the Minister sitting opposite or his colleague from the Progressive Democrats who had just left the House. The matter to which I refer is the package treatment plants provided by local authorities to serve various housing schemes throughout the country. Just as I mentioned in relation to the major sewage treatment plants, for some unknown reason there seems to be a terrible tendency for those treatment plants to overload into streams and to cause an offensive odour and to cause pollution which can ultimately end up in the public water supply. The heavy rain of last night provides a classic example of what can happen when the watertable rises very sharply as the result of a sudden downpower. The threat of pollution to the water supply is magnified 100 times after a heavy downpour: there is a large amount of water in flood, the watertable rises and the possibility of overflowing sewers is created.

Incidentally, there is one other point that is rather peculiar. It has been a practice by builders and by local authorities throughout the years — and this is authorised — to flush out public sewers. To flush out a public sewer if an occasional stormwater shore should go into it is an accepted practice supported by local authorities and the Department of the Environment. The theory was that when the stormwater went into the public sewer there was no danger of pollution, that it would be treated at a sewage treatment plant further down the road; but nobody ever seemed to ask what would happen if it backed up through the stormwater shores and got into the public water supply by another route, which in fact has happened. Despite all the expertise, despite all the clever people and despite all of the technical evidence showing that if a certain amount of stormwater were put into a sewer it would have the effect of scouring out the sewer and ensuring that it worked efficiently, one simple thing was forgotten: that these pipes block up; and when they blocked up they were blocked also by sewage, which in turn went into the stormwater system and could then be discharged through another route into a stream or a lake, and the consequences of that are known. I shall not go into any more detail in that regard. I think I have made my point.

As bluntly as possible, I want to say that the guidelines and the provisions of the Bill are excellent. It is an excellent idea to prosecute local authorities for actions such as failing to provide a necessary treatment plant to ensure that pollution does not occur; but it is equally incumbent on the Minister of any Government at any time to ensure that the necessary funds are made available by his or her Department so that that work can be carried out. Those funds are not provided by the local authorities themselves; they are provided by the Department. I am a little worried that perhaps that may be a weakness in the Bill.

My colleague, Deputy Bernard Allen, referred to the proposed independence of the agency. That is a good idea. But there is one flaw in that regard, Deputy Allen pointed it out and I support him in his argument. The point raised by the Deputy and supported by me is that if a question were asked in the House in a couple of years' time about the Environmental Protection Agency would Members be likely to be told that the Minister had no official responsibility to the House? I get that answer all of the time. I am sure everybody else in the House gets that answer from time to time when asking parliamentary questions. I am quite sure that when the Minister was sitting on this side of the House he would have got that answer from time to time——

Every week.

That answer is heard every day of every week. I have noticed a growing tendency for responsibility to be hived off to an outside agency thereby ensuring that a Minister — any Minister of any Government — is not dragged into the House daily to answer questions or to speak on questions asked during an Adjournment debate and so on unless an emergency arises. There is a danger in that tendency. All agencies should be responsible to the Minister and the Minister should be responsible to the House so that Members who are elected by the public have the right at any time to put down a parliamentary question or to raise a matter on the Adjournment and to have an issue discussed in the House.

At the end of the day — and recent events should serve to illustrate my point — it is the people in this House who will be held responsible by the public outside. At the end of the day it is the Minister, whoever that Minister may be, who will be held responsible by the public. So, it is not such a good idea to get away from the responsibility of answering parliamentary questions and it is not such a good idea for a Minister to be able to tell the House that he or she has no official responsibility in the House and then to have Opposition Members spending tedious hours trying to find out ways and means of tricking a Minister into answering a question under those circumstances. I make no apology for repeating my statement that in future legislation the more a Minister can accept responsibility to the House for any agency, State body or semi-State body the better for himself or herself.

I have already mentioned the limitations of local authorities, their responsibility and the superseding responsibility of the Minister, so I do not intend to pursue that line any further.

Some speakers have referred to sea pollution and in that regard we all think immediately of Sellafield. I agree that some of the proposals heard recently in relation to underground storage of nuclear waste are completely unacceptable and that the dumping of nuclear waste at sea in cannisters is also completely unacceptable. Somebody sometime somewhere will have to accept responsibility. Some future generations may well look back with anger and ask why the legislators and the people of our time allowed it to happen. By the same token, I have to say that virtually every modern State now generates a certain amount of nuclear waste of one kind or another, and that includes this modern State. In fact, there are those who would say that a certain amount of nuclear activity is generated in this House from time to time. Certainly Ireland does generate nuclear waste, which does have to be dealt with. The odd thing is that nobody is prepared to accept that it will ever be dealt with, nobody wants to accept responsibility. It is a position similar to that pertaining to the responsibilty for the dumping of toxic waste on land: nobody wants to deal with it, nobody wants to accept it and certainly nobody wants to live near it — and I can well understand that attitude. At the same time, those wastes exist and some means have to be found to ensure that they do not build up ad infinitum in the system to arrive in a few years' time at a position of being incapable of dealing with the problem. That generation may well ask: why was this allowed to happen? I sincerely hope it does not happen. We must be honest with ourselves — and the public must address this — in that, if we generate toxic waste of any kind, nuclear or other, we should devise ways and means to deal with it. Otherwise, we should cease to generate it. We cannot have one without the other. Hospitals, photographic laboratories and so on generate even minor nuclear waste which must be dealt with. Pretending that it does not exist is no justifiable excuse to advance.

I reject the proposals for the processing of nuclear waste at Sellafield in undersea storage caverns and so on. Equally I reject the dumping at sea of cannisters of nuclear waste. That is not now as prevalent as heretofore. All of this presents a threat to the fishing industry and needs to be examined.

I have dealt with the matter of illegal dumping. The danger with illegal, uncontrolled dumping is that the people who engage in it have little regard for the visual amenities of the relevant areas or its impact on the environment. They have no knowledge of the dangers it is likely to pose to other members of the community and, worst of all, generally do not care.

I wish to refer to the lack of progress made in regard to recycling of waste. I often wonder how much example we set even in this House. We recycle much rhetoric from time to time; indeed, I engage in it.

The Deputy is very good at it.

If we are serious about recycling of paper and so on why do we not set an example in this Legislature? For example, we use quite an amount of paper in this building and to recycle it would be an excellent way to set a headline for everybody else, thereby further eliminating the pollution threat. We are all conscious of the need to protect trees. I do not want to go into detail on that but it is relevant. We should encourage the recycling of paper and set an example here in the usage of such recycled paper. We appear to use a little but not very much.

In recent years local authorities have endeavoured to recycle a certain amount of domestic waste, such as bottles, tin cans and so on. But for the existence of REHAB we would not have been successful in the disposal of such material. Even with the assistance of local authorities it is almost impossible to devise a waste disposal system. We must remember that virtually every hotelier and publican is anxious that a system be devised whereby they could categorise their waste and have it recycled. Sufficient is not being done in that area. The Minister of State who is present takes a special interest in the environment and I suggest that she examine how hoteliers and publicans could be facilitated and not have to wait six months, or six years, to have their bottles, tin cans and so on disposed of sometimes causing injury at dumps.

In the Minister of State's absence I referred to the Kilcullen sewage plant.

I have dealt with that.

I was surprised at the way the Progressive Democrats behaved in the course of the recent happening because I expected more of them. Before the next election I hope that scheme will be operational. It would be a great boost to the Kilcullen area. Indeed, while they are at that, they should also implement the Robertstown scheme — in a tourist high amenity area — which has been on the rounds, in the Minister's office, out of the Minister's office and been the subject of reports, amended specifications an so on in recent years. We would be delighted if the Minister's imprimatur could be applied there also.

The ability of the proposed agency through the availabilty of funds is the most important point to be stressed. If the agency are to be effective they will have to have funds, not necessarily to establish a huge bureacucracy spreading their wings in all directions, creating a pyramid system or the like, but rather funded in such a way as to enable them fulfil their functions. Virtually every Bill passed by this House carries an obligation on local authorities. They do not have sufficient money to fulfil their functions. If this agency are to be hamstrung in the same manner a serious problem will obtain. I ask the Minister to ensure that the necessary funds are made available to the agency to enable them fulfil their functions and responsibilities. If such funds are not made available the provisions of the Bill cannot be enforced in that there will be no staff to carry out the necessary inspections and there will not be a willingness on the part of those who are placed in that position to carry that burden on their shoulders. This has occurred many times.

I have mentioned section 59 which places responsibility on local authorities to comply with the regulations, thereby ensuring the elimination of pollution and so on. Once again I might underpin the point that, from the point of view of the Minister, it is vital that he or she ensure that local authorities are not placed in the invidious position that they cannot comply with the appropriate regulations through lack of adequate funding. That is the direct responsibility of the Minister and the Department.

I should have mentioned the sewage treatment plant at Derrinturn, Carbury, County Kildare, which has been a source of pollution also and in relation to which we are hoping something will be done. The two treatment plants dealing with local authority houses, one in Ardclough, the other in Derrinturn, are malfunctioning.

We must remember that the environment affects so many facets of life. It affects every person living on the globe in one way or another so that the need for its protection must be greater now than ever. We must do more than merely pay lip service to the environment. We must ensure there is put in place a mechanism that will work and, at the same time, place responsibility on those who should be responsible for its protection, whether they be farmers, industrialists, Government Ministers, local authority managers, public representatives or others. We all have an involvement, a duty and a responsibility for its protection. It is my hope that we will live up to that responsibility.

There is one responsibility to which the general public have never lived up to, with one or two exceptions, one exception are the organisers of the tidy towns competition who have focused such attention on the issue that it has become socially undesirable to be seen throwing litter on the streets. If one travels through any village, town or city on, say, a Friday evening, Saturday or Sunday morning one can see the disgracful state of footpaths on main streets as a result of people having discarded paper bags which contained chips, cardboard boxes, bottles, cidar flagons, plastic, paper and so on. It has often been said that sufficient litter bins are not available. The litter bins can be placed within three of four feet and can be surrounded by a tide of litter thrown indiscriminately by people who should have greater regard and respect for themselves and for the rest of society. It should be possible to generate civic spirit so that people will recognise that they are messing up their own back yard by littering the streets of our towns, villages and cities.

I assure Deputy Durkan that in view of certain changes in constituency boundaries I will be endeavouring to complement his efforts regarding improvements in the Kilcullen area.

I welcome this Bill which comes before the House following extensive and constructive debate in the Seanad. I have in the past spoken in this House on environmental matters and indicated my strong support for measures which aid in the regulations of the environment, which promote environmentally friendly industrial and tourism development and greater awareness among all sections of the community of the importance of safeguarding our environmental heritage.

We are very fortunate that the ravages of industrial development throughout Europe and elsewhere have not impacted on us. At the same time we have the benefit of learning from others of the impact of unregulated or insufficiently regulated developments on the environment, urban and rural. We have put that knowledge to good use. This Bill is yet another example of the intelligent assimilation of that experience into our legislative framework.

We have many times in different contexts considered ourselves unfortunate due to our relative isolation from other parts of Europe and the cost in economic terms. Equally we have benefited from that very isolation in many ways, avoiding to a large extent the destructive influence of major industrial developments and not least the terrible destruction of war.

The pace of change worldwide is, however, catching up with us and relative distances are perceptibly much less. This was brought home to us in no uncertain manner by the Chernobyl disaster which was a salutary lesson when considered in the context of Sellafield and our proximity to the west coast of England. We must ensure that our physical isolation does not deter or delay the implementation of safeguards for the well being of our society. We must keep our eyes focused on the rest of the world to ensure that we have the most up-to-date knowledge and expertise to maintain those safeguards at the highest level. This Bill and the establishment of an Environmental Protection Agency will provide a framework for us to do just that.

I have the good fortune to represent in this House the people of Wicklow who are justifiably proud of their country and its beauty. The well deserved title "The Garden of Ireland" serves to highlight not the perception of the Wicklow people but rather the perception of those outside the county, particularly in Dublin, who avail of its beauty, tranquility and splendid environment. It also serves to highlight the importance of balancing industrial development by the dedication of certain areas as environmental oases, unspoilt and pure. There is an important analogy between the magnificent facilities offered by Wicklow to the industrialised areas of the east coast and the facilities offered by our entire country to the industrialised nations of Europe. The relative beauty and environmental purity offer enormous potential particularly for the development of tourism, which in turn will offer many thousands of jobs, in addition to a healthy society. Recognising these strategic advantages and utilising our resources to exploit them must be a priority for all, particularly for those of us elected to represent the people and to provide leadership.

For these and for many other related reasons I welcome this Bill. It is a clear signal to all concerned within and without our country that we take environmental matters seriously and intend not only to maintain the balance of advantage relative to the rest of Europe but to improve upon it.

This Bill is not a statement of our intent with regard to the environment. We have made that clear in other legislation and on other occasions. The protection of the natural environment has long been a priority of Government, making environmental issues central to national policy, giving Ireland a strong international voice on these matters. We can proudly demonstrate a progressive and pro-active approach to enhancing environmental consciousness and in taking measures to safeguard the environment. In relatively recent times the Air Pollution Act became law. We have signed the Protocol to the 1979 Convention on long range transboundary air pollution. We have made special orders to control smoke pollution and ratified the Montreal Protocol on CFCs and their effect on the ozone layer. These measures are in addition to a range of pro-active policies in regard to water pollution, cleaner beaches, unleaded petrol, environmental awareness and so on. We should not be so foolish as to say we have all matters under control but we can say that we have done a lot and are striving to do much more.

The importance of this Bill is that it helps to cement the good works undertaken so far and to put in place licensing, monitoring and advisory services to ensure that there is no slippage and that we maintain the rate of progress achieved so far. The agency will provide leadership and expertise in this area and will supplement and complement existing bodies. This is an extremely important point. I would be very concerned if this Bill were proposing to take primary responsibility away from local authorities for maintaining high standards in environmental and planning matters. It is critical that those accountable to local communities should take the responsibility very seriously and should not be given any opportunity to pass the buck elsewhere. In the nature of things, however, there is not always complete awareness or knowledge of the most up-to-date information on environmental matters or complete appreciation of sensitivities in this area. In that the agency will fulfil this role and give active support to local authorities, it will provide a tremendous new facility. I would encourage all local authorities to take full advantage of this facility as I would expect the agency to provide a thoroughly professional service to the local authorities. The net result can only be an improvement both in the standards employed and in the general public awareness of the importance and significance of environmental matters, not only in relation to health but also in relation to industrial and tourism developments.

The Bill is necessarily lengthy. The first 18 of the 110 sections are essentially concerned with housekeeping. Part II provides for the establishment and incorporation of the agency and includes provision for the appointment of the director general and other staff. There will be debate about the procedures for appointing the director general and the constitution of the committee to aid in that process. I am satisfied that there exists a balance of expertise and interests to ensure that high quality candidates are nominated. While the advisory committee will naturally be comprised of people with an expertise in environmental protection and related environmental areas, I would urge the Minister to ensure that there is balanced representation of industrial, tourism and other economic interests on the board. Such representation is provided for in the Bill and I strongly support it as it will give the advisory committee greater breadth and influence and avoid the perception that they might be overly biased in any one direction and not considerate of industrial, tourism or other economic factors which are relevant to environmental policy.

Sections 29 and 34 are the main sections dealing with staff matters. This is a matter which I am particularly anxious to address. Over the past eight years or so this House has considered a number of Bills dealing with the establishment of new bodies or the creation of private companies from sections of Government Departments. I am referring to such companies as Telecom Éireann, An Post, Coillte Teoranta, FÁS and the Health and Safety Authority. In dealing with those Bills, we discussed proposals in regard to the transfer of staff, their conditions of employment, etc. It would appear — the Minister may correct me on this — that aspects of these sections are significantly different from similar sections of the Acts setting up the companies to which I have just referred. The essential difference is that while other Bills provided for the transfer of staff from a discreet block or area of a Government Department or body this Bill provides for a catch-all situation in which staff may be transferred from many different bodies both now and in the future. Equally it appears to provide for the compulsory transfer of staff at any time.

As the Minister is aware, sections 29 and 34 provide for powers which may be more extensive than similar powers in other Acts. I raise this point because the involvement and commitment of staff to the goals of the proposed agency will be absolutely critical to their success. I believe all the bodies to which I referred earlier have thrived because of the support given by the staff who undertook their new tasks wholeheartedly. It is not that there were never any difficulties or disputes in these bodies but given the fundamental change in circumstances these have been minimal. As a generality, the success of these organisations has been due in no small way to the full commitment of the staff involved.

Essentially what I am saying is that very careful consideration must be given to the sections of the Bill dealing with staff, their transfer and conditions of employment. The co-operation of unions, staff associations and the like at this stage will be repaid a hundredfold in the future. I am certain the Minister and the Department will be anxious to follow that route. As one who spent many years in industrial management, I am very well aware of the benefits of a good industrial relations environment and the development of sound collective agreements. Therefore, I ask the Minister to ensure that in all matters relating to the establishment of the new agency, such as staff transfers, tenure of office and consultation procedures, the best possible environment is created from the outset.

I know that a Second Stage debate is not the time to deal with specifics but I want to ask the Minister to consider whether future designations of staff should be made compulsory or whether it would be in the best interests of the agency to advertise openly for the staff and expertise they need so as not to give rise to hostility among staff because of an unwillingness to transfer. In that regard I would also ask the Minister to consider the situation whereby the staff of local authorities and State bodies are free to engage in political activity and become elected members of local authorities without the need to give up their jobs for the duration of their appointment. Under section 36 (2) they cease to have the right on designation to the agency. Is this consistent with section 31 (3) which provides that the staff will be transferred with the same conditions of employment which they had previously? I believe such a provision is also enshrined in EC and domestic law. I may not be correct and I ask the Minister to advise me on this matter.

Part III deals with the functions of the agency. I have already indicated my full support for the establishment of the agency and for the assistance they will give to local authorities. The agency will also have the power to issue licences in a number of areas. I have one concern in regard to the issue of licences, that is the parallel procedures proposed in relation to an application for planning permission to a local authority and an application to the agency for a licence under Part IV which deals with integrated pollution control. If the local authority carry out the environment impact assessment independent of the agency's consideration of the licence application, are matters such as environmental quality standards and emission standards not appropriate to both applications? I ask the Minister to clarify how this procedure will work effectively in practice so as to avoid a chicken and egg situation later on.

It is very important to establish clearly the respective responsibilities of the agency and the local authority so that their joint efforts in the handling of such applications will be effective and efficient and there will be no undue delay in processing applications. The same situation may arise in regard to conditions imposed by the agency in relation to, for example, physical features which may impact on the planning competence and responsibility of the local authority. If there are any concerns in this area I would ask the Minister to set out clear guidelines on the operations of these bodies.

In the past the farming community have been much maligned and exageratedly accused by many people of causing pollution, particularly of our waters. A major contributor to water pollution is the local authorities. At present in my home town of Rathdrum in County Wicklow, raw sewage is pouring into the beautiful Avonmore River. This is to the detriment of public health and is ruining a wonderful amenity which is used for swimming, angling, etc. This amenity which is used by both local people and tourists is being rendered unusable. In fairness to the local authority, they have addressed this problem as effectively as they can. They have submitted plans to the Department of the Environment seeking approval and necessary funding for the provision of proper and adequate treatment facilities. I would urge the Minister and the Department to respond expeditiously and positively to this submission so that this totally unacceptable problem can be corrected.

I quote the Rathdrum situation merely as an example — it is far from being an isolated case. People in other areas of County Wicklow are also screaming out for similar attention. I want to thank the Minister and the Department for allocating funding in the recent past to Wicklow County Council which has enabled them to provide improved facilities in Wicklow town, Baltinglass, Kilpedder, Ashford and Hollywood. I would exhort the Minister to provide the necessary funding for the carrying out of similar works in the other needy areas of County Wicklow. Indeed, my comments in this regard apply to the country as a whole.

While there have been a few offenders in the farming community, as in all walks of life, they have shown great responsibility as a general body of people. The farmers of Wicklow and of the entire country have responded magnificently to the call to install anti-pollution measures.

As indicated earlier by my colleague, Deputy Síle de Valera, the farming community have been assisted greatly and encouraged by the substantial grant aid for this purpose which was made available through the good offices of the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy O'Kennedy. I offer my sincere thanks and compliments to the Minister for this forward thinking approach which is helping to keep our environment in good shape.

I would like to comment briefly on the positive and constructive approach taken by the vast majority of farmers. I have some positive statistics from my own county which will endorse that statement. Following the evidence of widespread fish kills during the summer of 1987 a programme of measures to combat water pollution was introduced by the Minister for the Environment for implementation by the local authorities, the fishery boards, the farm advisory bodies and, most important, the farmers themselves. As a result of these measures there was a dramatic downturn in the number of reported pollution incidents during 1988. Specifically, in County Wicklow the number of new cases investigated reduced from 91 in 1987 to 35 in 1988; furthermore, cases of agricultural origin accounted for only 18 of the 35, which represents a sharp drop from 73 per cent to 51 per cent in the occurrence of agricultural pollution as a percentage of the total number of cases investigated.

Similarly, the number of fish kills in County Wicklow fell from six in 1987 to two in 1988. Of these one was very minor and very little supporting evidence was found, the second resulted from a diesel spillage on a farmyard rather than agricultural pollution per se. Overall, between late 1984 and the end of March 1989, Wicklow County Council personnel visited a total of 385 farms in the county. Of these, 123 visits were in response to complaints under the provisions of the Water Pollution Act, 116 resulted from recent changes in planning legislation, with the balance of 146 being due to the farm survey. Categorising these in terms of pollution risk, 32 per cent were assessed as low risk, 37 per cent as medium risk and 31 per cent as high risk. The same council followed up initial visits either by issuing advisory letters or by section 12 notices. Recent inspections show that farmers, by and large, are taking their responsibilities very seriously. Remedial works have been carried out and are still being carried out. These responsible land owners and land workers are taking advantage of the grant aid provided by the Minister for Agriculture and Food in this area in the interests of the environment and in the interest not only of themselves and their families but of their neighbours both rural and urban.

There are a number of functions attaching to this agency which I welcome, particularly those contained in section 72, which deals with the carrying out of environment audits; section 74, which deals with codes of practice and section 76, which deals with labelling of products and services. In the past I have proposed a quality standard approach in regard to the environment. This is an excellent and worthwhile step in that direction. The carrying out of audits and formulating codes of practice will provide a very valuable service to the community and lead towards a gradual assimilation of higher standards into everyday life. I welcome also the policy of transparency which the Minister has imposed on the agency. I am a great believer in informing and educating the public and the open availability of information is an absolutely correct policy.

In conclusion, I welcome and support this Bill and I look forward to its progress through the House. I mentioned earlier the beauty of County Wicklow, which provides inspiration to many environmentalists. I noted also in some reports the prospect of locating this agency outside of Dublin; if so, I can think of no more apt or beautiful location than County Wicklow. I am sure the Minister is already aware of that. When the location of the headquarters is being dealt with I exhort all concerned to give consideration to the merits of County Wicklow.

I welcome the opportunity to make a contribution to the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990. At the outset I acknowledge the presence of the Minister of State during practically all of this debate, which shows her keen interest in the Bill. The number of Deputies queuing up to make a contribution is an indication that people are aware of the importance of this Bill. In fact, I place it among the most important Bills which have come into the House since I became a Deputy. Without a properly protected environment there would be very little future for any of us. We are all concerned but we take very little care. The with-it conversation — or, to use a modern phrase, the yuppie conversation — if one is around any of the houses where such talks take place is the ozone layer and the damage being caused to it. That is thousands of miles away in the outer atmosphere and we should come down to more basic things and take a look at the damage we are causing to the earth, the land we trod on, the planet on which we live and leave the problems of the ozone layer to the scientists who are well trained and well advised on such matters.

In passing, I should say that difficulties in that field have been rectified and manufacturers of the various gases which were affecting and causing damage to the ozone layer have been brought into line. Those same people who would take part in and spend numerous hours in that type of discussion would themselves litter the countryside, causing untold damage. Yet they are blind to the fact that the modern housewife is now cleaner than clean, beaming in on every advertisment for modern chemicals for getting everything brighter than bright and a shinier than shiny kitchen. These chemicals are bought by the ounce and are poured by the tonne down drains and into sewers. Once they pass out to the end of the garden, which it is nicely landscaped, the husband, wife and family do not understand, do not know and do not care what happens. That is a tragedy because those chemicals are doing untold damage.

Speaker after speaker has come in here and said that local authorities are polluting. Why are local authorities polluting? They are polluting because they cannot deal with the chemicals which are destroying the very agents they set up to break down the bacteria to render harmless the waste from a modern household. If people are aiming for a shinier than shiny kitchen, the whiter than white bleach, it is at a cost to our environment on this planet. These substances are going into our streams and our rivers and causing fish kills that are being attributed to other factors. I will come to that later.

Often at the weekend a husband and wife will get together and tidy up, putting the rubbish into plastic bags. They will put it in the boot of the car and will go for a drive in the country and when no one is looking they will get out and dump the rubbish across the nearest hedge. They could not care less as long as it is gone from their house. That is not good enough. There will always be someone living a short distance of the hedge. There is no such thing nowadays as being remote, as any county council will confirm from expriences they have in trying to establish a tip head. We are all guilty and the message has to be spelt out. Young people, the very people who will talk about protecting the ozone layer, discard litter throughout towns and villages when they go to fleadhs, discos or concerts. What about the layer of rubbish they leave after them? It is a disgrace to the nation. We are a dirty nation. Our homes and our gardens are beautiful, but the countryside is not. When the county council send out workers in the springtime to cut the grass verges one should see all the litter that they turn up. Where did that come from? It did not fall from the upper atmosphere. It came from the windows of cars, discarded by people having drank their coke, orange or eaten bars of chocolate. The car was clean and the countryside was littered. That is not good enough.

Many of the containers discarded in this way could be recycled. We have in Cavan a tin bank for collecting drink tins. This was put there by a local environment committee, whose excellent work I acknowledge. We had an interesting lecture one evening from the lady in charge of the environmental committee and she imparted a lot of information to us. The tin bank paid all the costs of running the environmental campaign in County Cavan last year and it paid for prizes to schools and individuals for coming up with ideas to keep the countryside clean. The tins, as far as I know, are brought to Hammond Lane in Dublin and they are recycled. Why is there not such a bank in every town, village and parish? Why can people not be trained to segregate their rubbish and put their tins into these banks? It would generate an income for a charity or an environmental committee and it would keep the countryside clean.

On the evening of the environment lecture the lady on the committee told us that plastics such as coke bottles, orange bottles and the large 7-UP bottles can be recycled, that in fact there is a factory in my own county, Wellman International in Mullagh, County Cavan, which recycles such products. I was amazed to hear that material for recycling is being imported by the boat load from Europe. People all over Europe who are conscious of litter collect these bottles of all descriptions. They are put into large containers and are shipped here for recycling in Mullagh, County Cavan. It is a marvellous industry employing over 300 people. Never has the word "pollution" been mentioned with regard to this industry. It is a clean industry recycling plastic materials and the fibre from old mattreses which are being imported from the poorer Eastern bloc countries. Yet here we seem to be that rich that we could not care less and it is not worth our while to collect these bottles and we just throw them out. It would not be impossible to organise a collection point in every town and village. I imagine it would pay private companies to become involved in this, as surely there is a cost in importing them from abroad. Surely these bottles can be collected throughout the country by the private companies who have gone into refuse collection and who are giving an excellent service. These banks could be serviced weekly, the load collected and brought to the recycling point in Mullagh. We should look at that possibility.

Plastic refuse is the curse of the nation because it lasts for so long. It takes years to break down. Plastic bags are lying around everywhere, especially the plastic bags we get in the supermarkets which are lightweight and which are to be seen blowing all around the country. We have forests coming into production. Most of our timbers are soft timbers fit for little more than wood pulp. There is a major industry in the wood pulp industry — for instance, the manufacturing of paper, cardboard and so on. Why can we not go back to the strong paper bags like the ones we had long ago when I went shopping with my mother and father? Everything was wrapped in brown paper and brought home on the carrier of the bicycle and it did not spill all over the road. The paper was substantial. Surely it is not beyond the realms of possibility that paper bags could be used. The reason I suggest paper is because it is clean. If it gets damp it will melt away. It can be burned without causing toxic fumes and it can be recycled. If people are too lazy to gather it up it can be discarded much easier than plastic. Some of the supermarkets could do worse than to start an environment friendly campaign by supplying paper bags and supporting home industry. Plastics are a byproduct of oil and if it was not used for plastic bags it could be used for tar and we could put the tar into the potholes we are complaining about. These are some of the simple things which we must face before we become concerned about major items, which admittedly are important and need to be looked at.

Section 5 of this Bill deals with the best available technology not entailing excessive costs. "Excessive costs" may be construed in various ways and a more definitive definition of the term "excessive costs" would be "appropriate costs". Section 105 (6) states:

It shall be a good defence, in a prosecution ... for the accused to prove that

(a) he took all reasonable care to prevent or limit


Section 3 of the Local Government Water Pollution Act, 1977, has similar terminology. Guidance is not given as to what pollution is in the context of "all reasonable care". In relation to agricultural pollution I am annoyed at the attitude to farmers who are the scapegoats. The people who talk about the ozone layer will talk about the pollution caused by farmers. They do not know what they are talking about and they are far removed from the agricultural scene. Nobody has made a better effort than the farmers to protect the environment. Why should they not? It is in their best interests to do so. The household needs the water from the stream on the farm, as do the cattle, and they need it for a farm enterprise such as a piggery and so on.

Farmers have been bounded by the authorities with the powers to investigate them. If there is a particularly wet summer there will be a flurry of activity and farms will be visited. In a wet summer, on any farm there is bound to be spillage. How can we prevent it? Should we put an umbrella over the farm? The inspectors will come in and will see water flowing from the farmyard or from the field and they will run to the nearest stream and take a sample and will initiate a prosecution. Yet the farmer, his wife and family and the contractor would be doing their best to prevent any spillage. This has happened and will happen, but the farmer is given no chance to rectify the problem. He is prosecuted immediately. The local authorities have a different attitude. The local authorities will advise the farmer how to prevent this happening in the future and give reasonable time — weeks or a month or two — to put it in order. There are other agencies in this country whose attitude is to shoot first and talk later.

Thank God we have extremely wise people sitting on the benches in the District Courts. These cases have been brought before these learned men who have imposed the minimum penalty of £25 having heard the farmer's case and the prosecution's case. However, the costs of bringing that case to court are outrageous — on average £750 to £1,500. That is not good enough and will not help to improve the situation that may have caused the pollution in the first place. In that context there are many grey areas. Obviously the judge sitting on the bench was not satisfied. The fact that he could not impose the maximum penalty of £1,000 shows that he was not satisfied that that case should have been brought. Obviously his hands were tied and he imposed the minimum penalty of £25. In regard to the costs, is there a directive in this Bill that these people must generate their own finances to stay in existence, and is that to be done on the backs of the small farmers? That is not on and it will not work.

Recently we had a case in Cavan where a farmer defended himself using the defence that he had taken all reasonable precautions. He felt he could defend his own case. It was unfortunate that on the day the case was heard the judge who usually takes those cases was not available and there came a learned gentleman from this city. He told the farmer he was a Judas, which I think was outrageous. He told the farmer that he, the farmer, was washing his hands of this problem and that he was responsible and fined him the maximum of £1,000 plus £1,500 witness expenses. How dare that man attack or accuse a man who came to put his own case to him? What grounds had he for doing it? I wonder if we went to that man's back yard what would we see on a Saturday afternoon when the rubbish is being gathered? Yet he saw fit to come to my county to belittle decent people.

I would like to make this case. There is the problem of pollution upstream. Pollution might be detected in a stream passing through a farm but that does not mean that that pollution is necessarily coming from the farm through which the stream runs. It could be coming from upstream, but is that possibility investigated? No. The inspectors say that the farmer is responsible for the streams or rivers running through his farm. That is no acceptable. It is the same as a public road. Is a farmer responsible for the traffic running on the public road that passes through his farm? He certainly is not. The local authority is responsible.

A farmer cannot police the rivers and streams going through his farm. They are of benefit and he wants to see that they are kept clean. If somebody upstream is polluting them, surely he should not be held responsible. I would like that area to be cleared up because prosecutions have been brought on the evidence of finding pollution in a sample of water with no evidence where the pollution came from. Now that this Bill is coming in, I hope we will take a different approach so that we would not be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and would give all reasonable help to people to deal with whatever problem exists.

A decade ago farmers were given grants to construct silage slabs and cubicle houses. Grants were paid and inspections carried out and everything was above board. Ten years later we realised that that was not sufficient to prevent pollution. In many cases the concrete used was not of a standard to withstand the wear and tear of acids from silage making. I would ask the Minister for Agriculture and Food to suggest that grant aid to be given for the reconstruction of those silage layers. It may mean laying an extra layer of concrete or building an inner wall, but I do not think the farmer should be denied grants to bring about improvements he knows are necessary but that he cannot afford because of the exorbitant cost. At present no such grant aid is available. It should be made available, otherwise makeshift repair jobs will be carried out which will not suffice. It would be much better to grant aid a proper job.

Sections 39 and 108 concern the right of the public to access to information on the environment. A definition is given in the Bill as to what constitutes "information on the environment"—"water, atmosphere, soil, fauna, flora, land and natural sites". This should read "waters" as defined in the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977 section 1:

"Waters" include any or part of any river, stream, lake, canal, reservoir, aquifer, pond, watercourse or other inland waters, whether natural or artificial.

It will be noted that this defintion of "waters" includes aquifers. These are one of Ireland's major resources and are vulnerable to pollution from a variety of sources ranging from effluent from agricultural activities to leachate from landfill sites. They are also a major source of drinking water and results from analysis by the local authority or the agency should be available to the public.

Also under sections 39 and 65 the agency is not obliged to make available confidential information. When the EC Directive on the Freedom of Access to Information on the Environment comes into place on 1 January 1993, will these sections become obsolete?

Section 60 (2) concerns landfill sites for waste disposal. No mention is made of vermin control at landfill sites. This is a very important issue in populated areas and it should be a procedure adopted by either the local authority in the area or the agency. That is a major problem. Rodents will appear at such sites and it is not good enough that they are not controlled. It is a simple enough exercise and it should be part of the law that they be controlled at these sites.

Section 61 (3) (a), (b) and (c) relates to the overseeing of local authorities by the agency. Where the agency is of the opinion that a local authority is not complying with the directions under paragraph (a), the agency shall carry out such functions and the cost of such actions be recovered by the agency from the local authority. But the agency will not give direction unless these funds are available. Will this mean that a local authority can cause an emission to pollute because it did not have the funds to seek advice from the agency?

A recent survey of aluminium levels in Irish drinking water concluded that of the 26 counties analysed, only three counties were within the EC Directive on the Quality of Water Intended for Human Consumption. The maximum allowable levels for aluminium were breached by 12 counties. If funds were available to a local authority this problem should be the first tackled. The direction of the agency should be given to the local authorities free of charge. In relation to aluminium in our water I understand that the purpose of it is to clean the water. It then make its way into the spoilage from the water and has to be disposed of. I would like to know what happens when this waste is disposed of.

Section 64 mentions the establishment of an accreditation scheme within the agency's laboratories or laboratories operated by local authorities or other laboratories that submit data to the agency. Many independent and local authorities laboratories in Ireland will find it difficult to obtain this accreditation within approximately one year of the agency being established.

I would ask the Minister to take on board these few remarks I have jotted down here and consider the problem of treatment of farmers who are taking all reasonable care. I would ask the Minister to give them favourable consideration when we come to further examination of the Bill.

Debate adjourned.