THE Petitions Committee of the European Parliament has agreed to investigate Dublin City Council’s plan to extend the controversial sewage treatment plant in Ringsend.
Residents in the Ringsend, Sandymount and Irishtown areas have complained of foul odours from the facility ever since it opened in 2003.
The city council has repeatedly promised to rectify the odour problem and eradicate the smell before extending the plant.
In 2007, the local authority started the process of extending the controversial sewage plant at a cost of more than €50 million.
The council intends to redevelop the plant and expand capacity to deal with waste from 2.2 million and possibly up to 2.8 million people.
In March last year, An Bord Pleanála told the city council that it would have to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the grounds that the extension was "likely to have significant effects on the environment".
In a letter to the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament last year, Damien Cassidy of the Ringsend, Irishtown and Sandymount Environmental Group noted that the “malodour” problem at the plant had affected the local community since the facility opened.
“Incredibly, it is now proposed to extend further this sewage treatment plant,” he said. “Although the plant is stated to be working at 20 to 30 per cent over its planned capacity, more sewage has actually been pumped into it.
“We believe that because of the failures of this plant, instead of increasing the size of it there are grounds for decreasing the size of the plant. We are also in favour of each part of the city treating separately its own sewage.
“There should be no sewage plant imposing upon the people of one area all of the problems that go with the treatment of sewage, including traffic, smells and interference with local habitat and amenities,” he added.
In a recent letter, MEP Kathy Sinnott, who is the vice president of the Petitions Committee, informed Mr Cassidy that the EU had accepted his petition and would investigate the matter.
In November last year, a report commissioned by Environment Minister John Gormley found that the multi-million euro facility has been frequently working above its capacity of 1.64 million people since it opened.
The study showed the equivalent population flow of sewage to the wastewater treatment plant was underestimated by some 225,000 people.
Odour levels at the facility were 20 times higher than the standard required in an environmental impact assessment.
The consultants’ report revealed that while the population projections by planners were correct - up to 1.98 million people by 2020 - loads from commercial premises and tourists were miscalculated.
In a statement the city council confirmed that they had appointed consultants to prepare an application, including an environmental impact statement to An Bord Pleanála to extend the plant, which they hoped to submit in 2010.
“A comprehensive review of the odour control systems at the Ringsend works concluded that upgrading was required in a number of areas,” according to the statement. “This review is now complete and had led to a significant improvement in air quality in the immediate and extended areas around the plant. The number of complaints regarding odour emanating from the plant has almost ceased.”
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