A Kilkenny farmer and his family have been left dealing with the effects of more than 20 years of cadmium and fluoride pollution after a CRH cement factory in Castlecomer was closed in 2006 while trying to renew an IPPC emissions permit.
Ormonde Brick was a cement factory owned by Cement Roadstone Holdings which closed in 2006. It operated in Castlecomer, County Kilkenny and was permitted by the EPA to discharge 1,000,000mg of fluoride per hour through its chimney stack.
Dan Brennan, a livestock farmer in Castlecomer has been campaigning for nearly two decades to establish the reasons for his cattle repeatedly suffering from stunted growth, low milk yields and a high number of still births.
Mr Brennan blames the neighbouring factory, Ormonde Brick, for polluting his cattle with high levels of fluorides and cadmium. Both are highly toxic substances.
Ireland’s environmental protection agency (EPA) is supposed to monitor and regulate emissions from industrial plants. An EPA inspectors report into Ormond Brick emissions in 2000 found that fluoride emissions from the plant were more than twice the recommended levels, yet it did not order the CRH factory to close immediately or to stop operating.
Scientists are highly critical of this lack of action by Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency against a firm which was emitting damaging levels of toxic fluoride gas.
“This was yet another whitewash by Government Agencies which have permitted farming enterprises to be destroyed and land to be poisoned by failing to regulate industry,” environmental scientist Declan Waugh said recently.
The company, owned by Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH), has always denied Tom Brennan’s claims, and says the Environmental Protection Agency had given it a clean bill of health.
However other critics say the EPA did not check for cadmium levels when it granted the CRH plant its licence.
Veterinary epidemiologist Jim Crilly, who first detected cadmium on the Brennan farm in 2004, told an EU Committee that at one point the cadmium levels he found in bovine blood there were the highest samples ever recorded in Europe.
The Ormonde Brick plant was closed in 2006 while trying to renew its IPPC licence which imposed stricter conditions on its fluoride emissions.
CRH denies that Ormonde Brick’s emissions were responsible for low milk yields, stunted growth, and high levels of miscarriage and animal sickness at the nearby Brennan farm.
As with its investigations into emissions at Aughinish Alumina, a large aluminium manufacturer in Ireland, the EPA said it found no evidence that fluoride poisoning of animals was involved in the high levels of animal illness at the Brennan farm.
However, Fluoride poisoning has destroyed livestock health before. In the USA in the 1950s Florida farmers received only neglible compensation, after the US Government finally admitted that animals on farms near bomb manufacturing plants had been poisoned by toxic fluoride emissions.
Tom Brennan’s family also suffered years of chronic ill-health which they attribute to toxic pollution from the Ormond brick plant.
In 2010, following years of investigations and a hearing at the EU Petitions Committee, the Department of Agriculture commissioned an 800-page report from UCD into the case which cost €500,000. The report concluded that the problems were not linked to shortcomings on the farm itself, but it also failed to name a definitive cause for the Brennan’s animal health problems.
Declan Waugh’s views were echoed by MEPs from other member states in 2010. MEPs expressed shock and annoyance that authorities in Ireland, or the European Commission, had not got found any reason for two decades of animal health problems at the Brennan farm, despite Ormond Brick’s fluoride emissions being more than twice the recommended level.
The EU delegation also complained that the official report by the Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis at University College Dublin had not been peer reviewed, although this was disputed by Ormonde Brick.
In January 2010, the Ormonde Brick company pointed to the findings of the Department of Agriculture report, which concluded that there was no evidence to link the Ormonde Brick factory with the specific problems it investigated on the farm.
In 2010 The Department of Agriculture said the UCD report on what caused the problems at the Brennan farm was still being assessed by itself,the Health Service Executive, Teagasc, the EPA and Kilkenny County council.
The EU Committee agreed that the Petition should be kept open and it may request the Brennan case goes before the European Parliament as a whole.