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Letter to councillors
5 March 2013
We are this week running an advertisement in the Roscommon Herald to initiate a campaign seeking the public’s assistance in bringing to an end the wide scale unauthorised extraction of peat across the Irish midlands.
The extent of this has been demonstrated in our Reports to the national and European authorities for three years and while legislation has been revised to assist in controlling these activities – such as the elimination of the 7–year rule – on the ground nothing has happened.
Not a single Environmental Impact Assessment has yet been done on the industrial peat extraction in Ireland, including by Bord na Mona. In a test case we have taken in Westmeath, the EPA has required the first two such assessment, but there are thousands of hectares of Ireland’s midland raised bogs that are being actively and increasingly devastated without controls or protection.
Midland rivers and lakes are silted up, smothering breeding grounds for fish and denying light to the plants that also provide food for diving birds. To date, more than 120 water supplies have been identified as having excessive levels of potentially carcinogenic pollutants which are a known product of peat drainage and chlorine in drinking water.
One of the measures intended to bring this extraction – most of it by non–Irish companies for export – under control through the planning and licensing system was the establishment of the Register of Extractive Industries by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2009.
Local Authorities are required to complete a register of quarries and peat extraction in their counties. While many quarries have been registered, this is not the case for peat extraction. In 2011, FIE wrote to every planning authority and not one had records of any private industrial extraction sites as they believed the operations to be exempt under the planning regulations.
Local authorities told us the main obstacle to legal enforcement action was the 7 year rule whereby developments (like houses) that had been on a site for 7 years could not be legally challenged. We strenuously lobbied for a change in this legislation and this change took place in 2011.
But closing this loophole will do nothing if the sites are not assessed for their planning and discharge licensces, and if they have not been assessed by the EPA for the necessary licence to protect the environment.
Would you at your next Council meeting ask the Manager to Report on the status of your county’s Register of Extraction industries in relation to peat extraction? Enforcement actions must be undertaken by local authorities and the first step is to identify the sites where these activities are taking place.
Call us on the hotline if we can provide any further information.
Friends of the Irish Environment
Whistleblowers 24–hour Hotline: 087 2176317
Email contact: admin@friendsoftheirishenvironment
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FIE’s case study in County Westmeath
FIE’s satellite survey