Tuesday, 1 March 1983
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Mac Giolla: and Mr. De Rossa asked the Minister for the Environment the plans he has for the disposal of the toxic waste which it is intended to store at Baldonnel, County Dublin, and at other sites.
As I indicated in reply to a question on this subject on 2 February 1983, the arrangements generally relating to the development of the proposed central facility for certain wastes have been under review. I expect to be in a position to make a statement in the matter shortly.
Mr. Mac Giolla: I am sure the Minister is aware of the great public concern in regard to toxic wastes, which are increasing as a result of the development of chemical industries. He states that he has the matter under review and expects to be able to make a decision shortly. In view of the fact that this matter has been under review by two previous Governments and that no decision has been made, does he regard the matter as one of grave urgency?
Mr. Quinn: I share Deputy Mac Giolla's assessment of the public concern in relation to this matter but he will realise that we have had no previous experience of the matter in this country. We are endeavouring to get the right solution from the start. We will not hesitate in coming to a conclusion but neither will we move too fast.
Mr. Mac Giolla: I would agree with the Minister that we must get the right solution. I take it the Minister would not have a collection centre for toxic waste until he had a disposal procedure for it. It is intended to have a collection centre at Baldonnel but I presume that would not  be established unless there were some area for the disposal of toxic waste.
Mr. Quinn: The Deputy has put his finger on part of the overall problem. Unless we have a continuous process in dealing with this matter from start to finish, we will not have a proper solution. We are looking at the entire question.
Mr. S. Walsh: The Rathcoole Community Council are very concerned about this matter and are anxious to get as much information as possible. Will the Minister agree to meet a deputation from the local community organisation to discuss the matter?
Mr. De Rossa: and Mr. Mac Giolla asked the Minister for the Environment if he will list the sites which have been approved by his Department for the storage or disposal of toxic and other hazardous industrial wastes.
The statutory powers governing the storage, movement and disposal of toxic and dangerous waste are vested in local authorities under the European Communities (Toxic and Dangerous Waste) Regulations, 1982, which came into operation on 1 January 1983. The regulations provide for a number of controls including a permit system and a consignment note system which enable local authorities to monitor the movement of the relevant wastes from source to ultimate point of disposal.
The selection of sites for their own waste disposal operations and the approval of private disposal sites are matters for the local authority. My approval is not necessary to the sites selected by local authorities and there is no list of such sites in my Department. The role of  the Department is mainly in the area of issuing advice to local authorities, and guidelines were recently issued to them on the factors to be taken into account in site selection.
Mr. De Rossa: Will the Minister renew the commitment given by the last Minister for the Environment that the Dunsink dump in the Finglas area will not be used for toxic waste? As there are no official dumps at present will the Minister indicate what is being done with the toxic waste?
Mr. Quinn: I am not in the position to give an answer to the Deputy to the first part of his question in regard to Dunsink. If the Deputy tables a specific question about that matter I will get the information for him. It is not that I am not answering the Deputy but I am not in a position to give him the information. In reply to the second part of the Deputy's supplementary I should like to state that there is no clear policy in regard to the disposal of toxic waste throughout the country. It is primarily a matter for local authorities to respond to EEC regulations.
Mr. Taylor: Will the Minister agree that the proper fulfilment by the local authorities of the tasks designated by him under the legislation to monitor the control and disposal of the toxic waste will require expert staff in the employment of local authorities? Will the Minister look favourably on applications that may be submitted by local authorities for the appointment of the necessary expertise to monitor and control the disposal of these poisons?
Mr. Mac Giolla: Apart from the disposal of toxic waste I am sure the Minister is aware of the danger involved in transporting it. Will the Minister tell the  House if there is a licensing system in existence or any system to monitor companies involved in the transport of such waste? Are regulations being prepared to ensure that such waste is transported safely?
Mr. De Rossa: In view of the need for a proper system for the transport and disposal of toxic waste, does the Minister agree that it would be better to establish a national system rather than leave it to different local authorities to introduce their own regulations? There is a need to introduce a uniform method of dealing with this matter. There should be a central system for disposing of the waste, not just dumping it, but burning or recycling it.
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