Topical Issue Debate

Hospital Accommodation Provision

I thank the Ceann Comhairle's Office for selecting for discussion this important issue regarding the development of special facilities at Cork University Hospital for people with cystic fibrosis. This has been possible because of the outstanding fund-raising efforts and dedication of those involved in Build4Life in raising the necessary capital investment required. While Build4Life has raised much of the required funding, the HSE and management of Cork University Hospital have worked with it to ensure the delivery of facilities for the benefit of patients with cystic fibrosis.

In the past few months, a disagreement has developed between Build4Life, the HSE and Cork University Hospital concerning the use of funding for the development of a unit in Ward 5B in Cork University Hospital and the ring-fencing of beds for patients with cystic fibrosis. The ward has 20 beds, a proportion of which are to be designated for patients with cystic fibrosis. Build4Life understood that these beds would be ring-fenced and used only by patients with cystic fibrosis. It now appears that this will not be the case. There is much confusion around this issue. I hope that as a consequence of my raising it here and with the involvement of the Minister of State, Deputy Lynch, the HSE and Build4Life this issue will be resolved.

The Minister of State will be aware that this unit was developed at a cost of approximately €2.3 million, which amount was raised by Build4Life. She will also be aware that the Minister for Health, through national lottery funding, contributed €300,000 over two years to Build4Life towards the cost of this project and that the site was prepared by Cork University Hospital at a cost of €250,000. Everybody has invested time, energy and money in getting this project to the stage where it would benefit patients. Patients must be at the centre of everything we do in the health system. It is important that the needs of patients with cystic fibrosis are paramount in resolving disagreements over bed allocation.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to all involved with Build4Life who, since its establishment in 2007, have raised huge amounts of money and whose fund-raising efforts to develop life saving isolated inpatient and outpatient cystic fibrosis facilitates in all hospitals throughout Ireland are ongoing. The organisation has thus far raised €3.4 million, which is a huge amount. I do not propose to outline at this point on what this money has been spent. It is important a resolution is found to this impasse and that the investment by Government, the HSE and Build4Life is brought to fruition, thereby delivering access to isolated beds and other facilities for patients with cystic fibrosis.

I have been in contact with the HSE and hospital management on this issue. I have also met with and discussed the issues with representatives of Build4Life. Families and patients with cystic fibrosis want to ensure the new facility is operated in a long-term manner that is feasible and viable. I acknowledge that there has been a huge amount of dialogue by a long list of people on this issue. While that dialogue is to be welcomed it is important the group that has raised the money for this project is included in any negotiations or discussions with the hospital. This is about the delivery of the best possible outcome for patients. I am sure everybody wants to ensure that these beds are opened, thereby improving the health care provided to patients with cystic fibrosis.

Through the relationship of the three groups involved, namely, the HSE, Cork University Hospital and Build4Life, real benefits for people with cystic fibrosis have been delivered. While it is important that the disagreement in regard to the use of beds in the new facility is resolved, it is vital that this long-term relationship is maintained. It is essential there is open communication between all involved in regard to how best to use the new facilities at Cork University Hospital for the benefit of patients with cystic fibrosis and their families. A world-class facility has been developed. It is not in anybody's interest that it should not deliver the best outcomes for patients with CF. I look forward to hearing the response from the Minister of State, who I know has a great interest in this matter. It is important the result is an outcome that delivers not only for the patients and families but the hospital.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. Cystic fibrosis is Ireland's most common life-threatening inherited disease. The Government is acutely aware of the challenges that people with cystic fibrosis, and their families, face in managing their condition and fully acknowledges the need for, and supports, the provision of dedicated accommodation in an environment which allows appropriate isolation for improved infection control. Given the need to avoid the exposure of CF patients to possible sources of infection, the aim is to minimise, wherever possible, the need to admit such patients to hospital and instead to provide treatment on an ambulatory day care basis as close as possible to home.

A cystic fibrosis clinical programme has been established as one of the HSE's national clinical programmes. Its aim is to provide the framework to ensure patients with CF receive optimal care to preserve and enhance their quality of life as well as improve health outcomes and well-being.

I commend Build4Life on raising €2.3 million to fund the development of a CF unit in Cork University Hospital. It is a tremendous achievement and I am pleased we were in a position to support it though the provision of national lottery funding of €300,000. Cork University Hospital has an adult and a paediatric centre for patients with CF and caters for the clinical needs of almost 25% of the CF population in Ireland.

In October 2011 a cystic fibrosis outpatient facility was opened to provide dedicated facilities. The project was completed with the local philanthropic support of Build4Life. Without that support, it would have taken far longer to provide the facility. Cork University Hospital, CUH, and the HSE minor capital funding programme also contributed. Again, I am pleased we were able to allocate €200,000 from the national lottery building fund to Build4Life toward this project.

Other significant investments in services for people with cystic fibrosis in recent years include the dedicated CF unit in the new Nutley wing at St. Vincent's University Hospital, built at a cost of €29 million and opened in 2012; the development of a new purpose-built dedicated ambulatory outpatient facility at Beaumont Hospital for patients with CF; and the introduction of newborn screening for cystic fibrosis, launched in July 2011. Babies diagnosed through newborn screening have improved nutrition and lung function, fewer admissions to hospital, require fewer antibiotics and have improved survival. The new cystic fibrosis drug, Kalydeco, was made available in February 2013. It is estimated that approximately 120 patients will be suitable for treatment with the new drug. I know from personal experience that it has made a remarkable difference to people's lives.

Other capital projects under way include a dedicated paediatric outpatient unit at University Hospital Galway, a day unit attached to the paediatric outpatient department at Mayo General Hospital and a unit in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick.

The HSE and Build4Life are working together closely to resolve any issues to allow this service to commence as soon as possible. I assure the Deputy that the Government is fully committed to providing the best possible services for CF patients and we will continue to work with all stakeholders.

I call on the Deputy to allow the debate to finish at this stage. As he is probably aware, we are involved in a process in Cork that we hope will reach a conclusion shortly. I trust the process and its conclusion will ensure the CF unit will be built shortly and will provide all the necessary safeguards Build4Life has sought. The meetings are ongoing and we will have another meeting at the end of this week. They have been successful and constructive meetings and I would appreciate it if the process was allowed to continue.

I thank the Minister of State for her reply. Certainly I have no wish to add anything that would do anything to damage the resolution. I commend the Minister of State and I know she has been involved in the process. It is important we reach a resolution. In the interests of all concerned I wish to put on record that it is important that we reach a resolution. I thank the Minister of State for her reply.

Drainage Schemes Status

I am raising this matter not for the first time. I have raised the issue of flooding in Kiltiernan-Ballinderreen area in south Galway previously. The Jennings O'Donovan & Partners report was published in November 2010 and set out clearly a review of the south Galway flood study report. Progress has been disappointing. We had flooding there in 1995, which I remember in particular. We saw serious flooding there in 2009 when there was no access to houses or farms. One of the councillors in the area, Councillor Bridie Willers, said at a public meeting recently that she and her family had to leave her house for three months. Despite the fact that good work has been done by the Office of Public Works and Galway County Council, they have not yet tried to tackle the foremost issue facing the people, that is, the issue of trying to get the water out to the sea or to drain to the sea from Kiltiernan to Brandy Harbour.

I received a letter during the week from Councillor Michael Fahy. He was informed by the acting director of services in Galway County Council, Liam Gavin, of the position on 20 January. The letter stated:

I refer to the above Kiltiernan Ballinderreen drainage scheme and your letter concerning progress on this scheme. Galway County Council have had discussions with the OPW concerning this scheme. Galway County Council are currently revising the scheme with an intention of bringing the cost benefit ratio to a level acceptable to the Office of Public Works. The review will be completed in the coming weeks and will be submitted to the OPW for approval and funding.

If there is one term that really annoys people in south Galway more than anything else it is "cost-benefit analysis", because they have been hearing it for years. The other term they have been listening to is "consultants", and we have all heard about consultants in recent times.

If the Minister could give the go-ahead for the project, it would be welcome news. I saw the following headline in The Connacht Tribune last week: "Week of the storms from hell". Naturally, it was referring to the damage done to our coast, which the Minister of State has seen for himself. However, in the case of the people of south Galway it is a good deal more than that. They suffered in 1995, 2009 and again in recent weeks. There is a reference in the newspaper to ten roads and up to ten houses threatened by the heavy rain that has fallen in recent times with the bad weather. One particular farmer, Mattie Hallinan, from Ballinderreen, is a member of the Galway flood project team. He described the situation as serious. He said ten roads were blocked and ten houses were under pressure. He further stated that now is the time to widen or clear the Ballinderreen-Kiltiernan water channel and bring it out to the sea to provide instant relief from flooding in the area. He said the water needs to get to the sea and that the work must start from the sea back.

I realise the Minister of State has been in south Galway. I can think of at least six Ministers who have been in south Galway. Every time hopes have been raised. Perhaps I will tell the Minister of State about some of the things that have happened when I have asked supplementary questions. For the moment, all I can say is that when the Minister of State gets the report from Galway County Council, I hope he looks on it favourably. The Minister of State has been looking at flood mitigation works and coastal protection. However, in this case we are dealing with people who have been waiting for years to have the water drained. We need to widen the channel and get the water out to the sea to relieve the flooding. These people have been cut off from their houses and livestock and they are rather concerned about the next fall of rain in south Galway.

I thank Deputy Kitt for raising this important issue. I confirm that I have been in discussions with the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy Ciarán Cannon, about this issue for some time. As the Deputy knows, I have visited the area and I have seen the scale of the problem. I suspect one of the reasons my predecessors have also been there and seen the problem is that if we could have found an easy solution, we would have found it some years ago. We are conscious of the issues in the Kiltiernan-Ballinderreen area. In 1995 my Department funded €317,000 towards the cost of the scheme following requests from the flood action group.

Payment was made to the trustees of the group in the period 1995 to 1997. It was a clear condition of the approved funding that responsibility for all aspects of the works, including ongoing maintenance, lay with the group.

Due to the history of flooding in the south Galway area and because of its particular geological features, such as karst limestone, the Office of Public Works commissioned a major flood study of the region in 1997. The study concluded that while a number of engineering solutions would alleviate some of the flooding problems in the area, none of the proposals was economically viable on the basis of a standard cost-benefit analysis. In addition, the environmental impacts of some of the proposals were unacceptable. As such, the OPW could not recommend proceeding with any of the proposals without further investigation.

Following the severe flood event in 2009, a south Galway steering committee comprising representatives of the OPW and Galway County Council, with which the office has a very good working relationship, was established to consider what mitigation works might be carried out in the area. A review of the south Galway flood study report was completed in 2011 and recommended both structural and non-structural proposals. Non-structural measures included planning controls, monitoring of flows at key locations, and refining the calibrations models. Structural proposals included engineering solutions at various locations in the area, including Kiltiernan and Ballinderreen. It was envisaged that if any works suggested by the review were found to be economically viable and environmentally acceptable, they would be taken forward with funding under the OPW's minor flood works scheme.

It is worth noting that under that scheme, approximately €1.5 million has been allocated to date to projects in the south Galway area out of total approved funding of more than €6 million for the whole of Galway city and county. In other words, very substantial funds have been put in place by this and the previous Government in recognition of the scale of the geological problem that exists in the region.

The scheme proposed by the consultants in respect of Kiltiernan-Ballinderreen was considered in detail by the OPW. It was found that it did not meet an essential criterion for funding from the scheme in that the benefit-to-cost ratio was significantly below the minimum threshold. Following appeals by Galway County Council and the Irish Farmers Association, the OPW reviewed the proposals and concluded there was significant doubt regarding the extent of the benefit that would accrue from the works. For example, some roads that were previously subject to flooding had been raised by the council. In addition, the OPW was of the view that due to the unique landscape and geology of the area and its designation as a special area of conservation, the proposals might not be acceptable on environmental grounds. At a meeting of the steering committee in late 2013, Galway County Council agreed to re-examine its position with a view to amending the proposals to address these issues.

I assure the Deputy that if an application for funding for revised flood mitigation proposals is submitted to the OPW, it will be given every consideration, having regard to the eligibility criteria applying to the scheme and the overall resources available to the OPW for flood mitigation measures.

I referred to the letter that was issued by Galway County Council on 20 January indicating that its review of the proposals will be completed in the coming weeks and thereafter submitted to the Office of Public Works for approval and funding. I hope the Minister of State will look favourably on the revised proposals. I will give him a copy of the letter, which is signed by Mr. Liam Gavin, acting director of roads and transportation, marine and general services at the council. It is important to note that this effort by Galway County Council is aimed specifically at ensuring the cost-benefit ratio is raised to a level acceptable to the OPW. Both the council and OPW are working well together and a great deal of good work has been done by both to deal with this problem. However, a great deal remains to be done in south Galway, as became clear at a well attended public meeting last Thursday in Ballinderreen.

The original scheme was constructed by landowners to relieve significant flooding at Kiltiernan national school, where not only the school building was at risk but also nearby houses, land and roads. The flooding was particularly bad in 1994 and 1995. One of the roads that benefited from the work undertaken at that time was the Castle Taylor Road. It became clear during the flooding in 2009, however, that the existing channels were no longer providing optimal benefit. In fact, the protections offered by the original scheme were eroding as the structures deteriorated.

There is an urgent need to maintain and improve the drainage scheme, as identified in the study undertaken by Jennings O'Donovan and in the Arup report. The revised proposals to be submitted by Galway County Council will address the cost-benefit issue. I could talk at length about flooding issues throughout the county of Galway, but I am concentrating on the situation in the southern region because it has caused particular hardship for landowners, householders, schools and farmers. In many instances, for example, animals have been cut off from the rest of the farm. There is enough paperwork in place. It is time now for action.

As I said, the steering group is in place. A copy of the letter to which the Deputy referred was given to me earlier by the Minister of State, Deputy Ciarán Cannon, who informed me of the very serious concerns among people in the area. If and when we receive an application from Galway County Council under the minor works scheme, it will be considered on the basis of the existing criteria.

As I outlined, a very significant funding envelope, both from this Government and the Government of which Deputy Kitt was a member, has been committed in recent years to south Galway by way of the minor works scheme. That allocation had regard to the particular difficulties arising from the geology of the area. We need a solution that will work. Simply throwing money at the problem in the run-up to one election or another is of no use to residents of the area. It is a pretence of which people should be wary. We need a solution that is hydrologically and economically sound and delivers for people in the area. The promise of delivery is not enough. The very difficult terrain in this part of south Galway makes finding a solution more challenging. I had an opportunity to meet people in the area and I am aware of the effects of the flooding within the community.

We will continue to work with Galway County Council to address the problem. If the revised application meets the criteria and offers an effective solution, I and my colleagues will be to the fore in advancing a positive outcome. The ball is very much in the council's court at this stage and we are awaiting its revised proposals.

Waste Management

I thank the Minister, Deputy Phil Hogan, for coming to the House to address this important issue. The fire at the weekend at a waste recycling facility in Ballymount industrial estate in Dublin posed a major risk to people in the locality and across the south of the city. This incident underlines the need for stricter regulation of the waste collection industry and the storage and processing of that waste. It is timely that the Department's consultation on waste management is due to close this week. I will be making a submission as part of that process.

A question arises as to who is responsible for monitoring the operation of premises such as the Oxigen facility in Ballymount. It is a huge premises which seems now to have been an accident waiting to happen. Waste can be very dangerous if not stored properly. My understanding is that in the case of this facility, different types of combustible material were stored alongside each other. That matter must be examined.

That matter must be examined.
Does the licence issued by the EPA in respect of this plant deal specifically with the risk of fire there and with the air pollution which might be caused when a fire occurs? What is the position with regard to air quality in the locality at present? When the fire started, people were told to keep their windows and doors shut and remain inside. However, they want to know now whether it is safe to breath the air in the vicinity. There is massive concern about this matter. The privatisation of waste collection, etc., has given rise to an industry that is almost unregulated. The companies which operate within that industry are building huge facilities. It is important, therefore, that assurances should be given that the industry will be properly regulated by the Department and the agencies with responsibility in this area, such as the EPA.

I am also deeply concerned about the impact this fire is having on my constituency and on the area that lies adjacent to it. The fire is also having a huge effect on local businesses. Part of the difficulty involved relates to the lack of information. People have been informed that the fire may continue to burn for another week. I visited the area last night and on a couple of occasions in recent days. People have been told to stay indoors. Keeping one's doors and windows closed and remaining inside will not stop noxious fumes from entering one's home. Should the employees of local businesses remain indoors and not go to work? A difficulty arises in this regard. There is also a difficulty in the context of road signs for traffic. People trying to enter the area have been turned away and a number of roads not in the immediate vicinity of the fire have been blocked off.

This fire should act as a wake-up call. I am concerned about the lack of regulation of a number of factories in the area. It was lucky that the fire started at the weekend. Forensics will reveal how it began. I am concerned with regard to who is responsible for monitoring activities at the factories. A huge number of factories in the area house noxious chemicals, flammable liquids, etc. There is a time bomb waiting to go off in this regard. We need to consider who is responsible for carrying out inspections at these facilities. I would appreciate it if the Minister could visit the area at some stage and discuss matters with local businesspeople. It is not possible for businesses to close down for a week and send their employees home. Major concerns have arisen about the impact this fire is going to have on people's health. It would be extremely helpful for people in the area if the necessary signs, etc., could be put in place.

I thank the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, for coming before the House to deal with this extremely serious matter. What happened at the weekend in Ballymount industrial estate and surrounding areas highlights the dangers involved in storing any kind of toxic material near residential areas. People in Inchicore, where I live, Walkinstown, Ballyfermot and elsewhere could smell the fire. I am really happy that Dublin Fire Brigade took command and dealt with the fire extremely well. Members of the brigade are still present at the site as the fire continues to burn. I had occasion to visit St. James's Hospital last week and I was informed that 60% of people from the area who attend the accident and emergency department there have respiratory problems.

On the evening on which the fire began, people were asked to stay indoors. I spoke to a young family who were obliged to leave the area and go to stay in their parents' house as a result of the fact that the smell from the fire had permeated their own home. I am pleased that the Garda is going to conduct an investigation into the cause of the fire. However, I remain concerned about the storage toxic materials near residential areas and the possibility of further incidents occurring in the future. In the context, I ask the Minister to commission a review of all toxic waste storage plants licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and to reassess their suitability for dealing with such waste in close proximity to residential areas. I also ask the Minister to examine the regulation relating to the storage of toxic material in such plants. I accept that Oxigen has stated that such material has not been stored at its plant for some time. If that is the case, I wonder where it is actually being stored. I ask the Minister to deal with this matter in a serious fashion and to review the EPA's system for issuing licences to these plants.

I woke at approximately 7 a.m. on Saturday and I could smell the fumes from the fire. The smell was similar to what one would get if plastic or rubber were burned. I went downstairs to check that there was nothing wrong because I thought the house was on fire. I went back to bed and when I woke later, I heard the news that the Oxigen plant was on fire. Smoke from the fire spread to many surrounding areas, including Inchicore. It made people feel as if their eyes were burning and caused them to choke. People became concerned when they were informed of the need to keep their doors shut, cover their faces, etc. It was not possible to contact the EPA at the weekend. I tried to do so a number of times and was eventually successful yesterday morning. I spoke to a man named Niall - I do not recall his surname - who informed me that it is normal to issue a warning of this nature and that it did not relate to the specific type of waste kept at the plant. When I inquired as to the type waste dealt with at the plant, he said that details could be found on the licence relating to the plant. When I located the licence, I must admit that it was like trying to read gobbledegook. I could not understand what it said at all.

The difficulty is that members of the public do not know what is being housed in plants of this sort. Nor do they know the type of hazardous waste involved, the time limit relating to its retention, to where it is moved or how this is done. That is the problem with private waste companies. People who live in built-up areas adjacent to these waste plants have many concerns. There are huge questions with regard to the Thorntons plant in Ballyfermot. During the summer, there are swarms of flies in the area and the smell coming from the plant is dreadful. People do not want jobs to be lost. However, they want any toxic or hazardous materials removed from their areas. Plants should be established outside our cities for the purpose of housing this type of waste. It should not be kept in built-up areas for any period.

There is a need for a public report to be compiled on this matter. That report must be written in plain language and provide details on what was in the Oxigen plant at the time the fire began, on how long it had been there and on the potential damage its being burned could cause. Everything must be put out in the open and questions must arise as to whether the plant should be rebuilt in the area in question and used for the purpose for which it has been used up to now. Members of the public should have a say on what is built in the area. These are three matters on which the Minister is probably in a position to intervene and about which he can inform us.

I have a number of concerns and questions I wish to raise with the Minister in respect of the fire which began on Saturday last at the Oxigen plant in Ballymount. On Saturday morning, the first thing people noticed was the odour coming from the fire. The smell was distinctly different from what one would normally associate with a fire. It caused people to choke, it blocked their noses and it caused nausea. Obviously, this was an indication that something serious was occurring. Later in the day, media reports indicated that there may have been toxins in the air as a result of the fire. This caused people distress and a number of them telephoned me as a result. I am trying to establish whether there were toxins in the air and whether there are any implications for the health of people who live and work in the surrounding area.

The buildings at the plant look very insubstantial. Did this contribute in any way to the intensity of the fire and the speed with which it spread? We have been informed that the bales of waste at the site were so tightly compacted that they were impervious to water and that this delayed firefighters in bringing the fire under control. Are there rules relating to the baling of waste - I am sure there are - and where these adhered to? There have also been reports of asbestos being stored at the site. I am sure this is hardly permissible. Were there any practices, processes or procedures which led to this plant being the subject of the type of conflagration witnessed at the weekend? Did the EPA raise any concerns with Oxigen about the plant?

A rigorous review should be carried out of all waste plants. The Thorntons' facility has caused upset and concern and given rise to health issues for people in the Ballyfermot area. In the context of their proximity to population centres of this size, it may be time for the companies involved to close their plants and transfer operations to areas where the safety of workers, management, local residents, etc., can be guaranteed.

As other speakers have said, the smoke that darkened the skies and shrouded Dublin in a toxic haze on Saturday terrified many local residents caught in the middle of it. The cause of the massive fire which consumed the Oxigen plant at Ballymount is as yet unknown, whether deliberate arson or otherwise. Residents and employees have suffered from the toxic fumes. The firefighters of the fire brigade are to be commended. It was sheer luck it was a damp and dirty January day which helped to keep the fire under control.

The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, personnel were quickly on site to measure the environmental impact on the city. The toxic nature of the fire and the difficulties in keeping it in check, despite the weather conditions, underline the dangers presented by these types of facilities and emphasises the pressing need for enhanced security arrangements.

A number of issues need to be addressed in the aftermath of this fire. Local residents were trapped in their homes and it is crucial that the circumstances and cause of the fire is known. How effective was the response and what can be done to stop such a fire occurring? The plant had recently ceased receiving hazardous waste materials which would have made an unfortunate situation even worse.

I ask the Minister if the Department will ensure that a full investigation by the EPA is undertaken, including a review of the security procedures and safety checks to ensure that such an event is avoided in the future. Will an evaluation be carried out of the response to the fire such as the warning to the public? Was decisive action taken to protect the area? We must ensure that everything will be done as soon as possible to ensure the environment of the area is protected.

I thank the Deputies for raising this important matter.

Last Saturday morning, at approximately 3 a.m., the Dublin fire service responded to an emergency call reporting a large fire at the Oxigen environmental waste facility in an industrial estate at Ballymount, Dublin. In co­ordination with An Garda Síochána, the Dublin fire service has been managing the incident since that time. The fire service has worked since early Saturday morning to bring the fire under control and at one point as many as 75 of its personnel were on the site. There was significant traffic disruption in the area as a result of the incident. A large plume of smoke hung over the area on Saturday and Sunday, although high winds over the weekend helped to disperse the plume somewhat.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been on site since early on Saturday. It is liaising closely with the fire service and has been monitoring air quality in the area. The EPA advised anyone in the path of the plume to keep windows and doors closed. It also provided general health advice to adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems and older people in regard to outdoor activity in particular. The EPA continues to monitor the situation and is providing regular updates through the media and on Twitter. Once the situation on the site has been brought under full control, the EPA will take steps to commence a full investigation in the normal way. It is too early at this stage to say what was the exact cause of the fire. The Garda Síochána and the fire service will be moving to commence their own separate investigations into the circumstances of the incident.

Like other Deputies, I am very concerned about the fire and I am particularly concerned about the possible impact on residents in the area. I am also relieved that there have been no injuries reported and that all staff at the plant are safe and fully accounted for. Smoke is still rising from the affected area but I am pleased to report that the situation is significantly improved. Three units of the fire service remain at the scene and continue to work to bring the fire under control which they expect to complete within the next 24 hours. I commend the fire service, An Garda Síochána and the EPA on their work. This is a significant incident and the fire service very quickly mobilised considerable resources to tackle and contain the fire. The facility is licensed by the EPA to accept household and commercial dry recyclables, construction and demolition waste and hazardous waste. It is not yet known whether any hazardous waste was caught up in the fire, but I expect such issues to be addressed in the various investigations. I will report to the Deputies on the conclusion of those investigations and examine the criteria associated with storing toxic materials near residential areas.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I commend the emergency services on how they dealt with the fire. Such incidents must be prevented. It is not satisfactory that half the city was covered in black smoke. Businesses were forced to close and residents were exposed to toxic fumes.

I refer to similar facilities such as Thorntons Waste Disposal in Ballyfermot which is situated in a densely populated area whose residents are concerned. I ask for an examination of such plants because I question whether they should be located in such locations. Proper regulation of the industry is required. I ask the Government to take action as it has now been three years in power.

The investigation of this fire must also investigate the manner in which this material is stored and the mix of materials stored in close proximity to each other. Fire prevention measures must be examined. It is not good enough for a company to stack and store this material without having fire prevention measures in place. This fire has caused a significant problem for the local authority, the Garda Síochána, the residents and for employees. Good regulations must be in place to ensure the proper storage of this material.

It is hoped that lessons have been learned as a result of this fire. Other speakers referred to the number of other such facilities in this area and other parts of the city and country. Who regulates and monitors these plants to ensure they are in compliance with Irish and EU law? I ask whether the local authority or the EPA is responsible for carrying out an audit of such facilities.

This fire happened at a weekend which allowed the emergency services to get to the location quickly. Belgard road fire station is a major incident centre for the three surrounding counties. I am concerned about the lack of resources available to the Belgard fire station. I am concerned about some circumstances in which a fire could wipe out half my constituency. Lessons need to be learned and an audit must be carried out without delay.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I hope the review will commence soon. I am glad that no one was injured in the fire. I ask the review to include information on the numbers of local people who required medical attention because of breathing difficulties. I spoke to people who said the smoke had affected them.

I note that asbestos was being stored at the facility. I am concerned about the effects of melting asbestos which is highly toxic. I am pleased the Minister of State will carry out a review to consider the location of such plants in residential areas.

What is required is a speedy review and report on the implications of this fire. We need to know how the fire started and what was being stored in the plant. The EPA is the licensing authority. It knows what could have been stored in the plant. Many of these plants have been in place for many years when the regulation of waste disposal was non-existent. Any report should set out in plain language what the plant contained.

I was told there could be asbestos there but I am not sure. The report must be in plain language and there must be a public debate on how close these plants are to built-up areas and on the possibility of setting up a plant which could take this toxic waste, including chemicals.

There is talk of wind borne toxicity. We need to establish if that is the case and the long, medium or short-term effects on the health of people. The character of the smoke was completely different from any kind of smoke people experienced from fires in the past. The health issue is very important. This industry seems to have a very fast and loose attitude to regulations. I mention Thorntons in Ballyfermot, and I am not saying Oxigen is exactly the same. Any accommodation with the rules and the law has to be dragged out of it. These plants sit in the middle of a community and every year there are odours, smells, noise and dirt. This industry needs to be reviewed from the top down. It is not fit to be situated in residential areas. Its history so far has been irresponsible to the point of reckless. It is time the Minister, who is very well able to wield the big stick, cleaned up this industry and moved it to places where danger is avoided. There is also the question of incineration. I thank the Minister for his response and am sure he will act on the matter.

I thank the Minister for his response and join him in paying tribute to the emergency services on the manner in which they responded to the fire and on the work they continue to do. I am glad there will be investigations by the Garda, the fire service and the Environmental Protection Agency. Will the Minister come back to us with the results of those investigations? Thankfully, major injuries and death were avoided in this incident but, as Deputy Crowe said, if there are lessons to be learned, recommendations should emanate from any such reports which might allow the Minister to amend legislation, if required, to guarantee absolute safety for all those who live in the vicinity of these plants and to ensure nothing like this happens again and, more important, there is not the opportunity for anything like this to happen again. I mentioned the Garda and the fire service in the context of security adjacent to the site. If the EPA recommends alterations to the regulatory process and if that means amendment of legislation, the Minister should be committed to doing that.

I assure all Deputies that this matter is being treated extremely seriously by my Department. It is the least we could do considering the scale of the incident and how businesses and residences were so badly affected. I assure Deputy Crowe lessons will be learned from the investigations being carried out. I do not have all the answers for the Deputies. I suppose that is to be expected. Otherwise we would not need any investigations. I will ask the EPA, the fire service and the Garda Síochána to initiate their own investigations into the fire, including the cause, as soon as possible once the fire is under control.

The treatment and management of waste is subject to a registration and permitting system in the local authorities and they are licensed by the EPA. This particular facility is licensed by the EPA, so it would have had to have gone through a permitting and registration system. The primary purpose of the permitting and licensing system is to facilitate the type of controls on waste facilities, which Deputies are anxious to see, and on what activities go on in those particular plants to ensure we have consistent and good waste management practice and high standards of environmental protection. As Deputies Stanley, Collins and Conaghan said, there is an opportunity in the context of the review of waste legislation to look at the enforcement regime we have around these particular facilities. I will undertake to look at that in the context of a new waste management policy in Ireland which, as was pointed out earlier, is the subject of consultation. I will ask the Department to ensure all matters raised by the Deputies are part of the investigation. The concerns genuinely raised on behalf of their communities will be reflected in the terms of reference of the investigations which are about to be commenced.

I will also examine the permitting and licensing system we have in regard to our waste management facilities. I share the concerns I hear anecdotally, which Deputy Conaghan mentioned, about people being less than strict in terms of adherence to the appropriate regulations in the waste industry. I hope we will be able to bring them into a new regime as soon as possible and ensure there is confidence in the permitting and licensing system we have and that there is safety for all.

I made financial support available to Belgard station in 2012. It was modest due to the times in which we are. New appliances were provided and improvements were carried out. One hopes, if resources permit, that we will be able to do a bit more in the future.