The EPA monitors air quality in Ennis on a continuous basis and monitoring has shown that there has been a significant improvement in air quality in Ennis since the introduction of the ban in August 2011. EPA figures show that there been 10 exceedances of the PM10 daily limit value set out by the EPA in the period between October 2011 and March 2012, whilst in the period between October 2010 and March 2011, before the smoky coal ban was introduced, there were 42 exceedances of the PM10 daily limit value. PM10 are very fine particles of dust that are released into the atmosphere when smoky solid fuels are burned and can be harmful to the environment and human health when the daily limit values are exceeded more than 35 times in a single year.
According to Anne Haugh, Director of Services, Clare County Council: “The figures provided by the EPA represent a very significant improvement in air quality over a relatively short space of time. It should be noted that the winter of 2011/2012 was milder than the two previous winters, but nonetheless this signals very positive progress in only the first year of the smoky coal ban in Ennis.”
Ms. Haugh continued: “Over the last year, Clare County Council has worked to increase public awareness of the regulations and to ensure that the regulations are enforced in an effective manner. Staff of Clare County Council have carried out over 150 inspections to check that those supplying fuels are in compliance with the regulations. The Council also acknowledges that there has been a high level of cooperation from both fuel suppliers and the public in the implementation of the regulations.”
Meanwhile, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has made new regulations under the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012, which came into effect on 31st August 2012.
The ‘solid fuel regulations 2012’, as they are referred to, have brought about an expansion in the existing smoky coal ban areas in Ennis and Clarecastle and south east Clare to reflect the increase in urban development in those areas shown in Census 2011. The updated regulations now also specifically prohibit the burning of bituminous coal by the occupier of any dwelling located within a smoky coal ban area. In addition, the solid fuel regulations 2012 provide for the extension of the smoky coal ban, with effect from 1st May 2013, to seven new towns within the state - Greystones, Letterkenny, Mullingar, Navan, Newbridge, Portlaoise and Wicklow Town.
Robert Burns, Executive Engineer, Environment Section, Clare County Council, explained that the solid fuel regulations 2012 build on the principles established in previous regulations and their purpose is to improve the environment, particularly air quality, and to protect human health from the harmful emissions which result from the burning of bituminous or smoky coal.
“Similar smoky coal bans have been in place in other cities and large towns throughout the state for many years and research carried out by Professor Luke Clancy and published in The Lancet medical journal in 2002 has indicated that the smoky coal ban introduced in Dublin in 1990 resulted in major health benefits and up to 350 fewer deaths annually in the city,” explained Mr. Burns.
He continued: “The Council’s Environment Section is responsible for the enforcement of the regulations in Co. Clare and has resources and measures in place to raise awareness and enforce the regulations, with a particular focus over the winter months where fuel demand is highest. Check inspections of door-to-door sellers and distributors of solid fuels in residential areas are carried out to ensure that the regulations are being complied with. Council staff also carry out inspections in the evenings and at weekends to complement the enforcement work carried out during normal working hours. Persons who breach the regulations can be liable to an on-the-spot fine of up to €1,000. For serious breaches, a court conviction can result in a fine of up to €5,000 at the district court.”
The public within the smoky coal ban areas is advised to source only smokeless fuels from reputable suppliers for their solid fuel needs. The following are examples of smokeless fuels that are permitted:
- Smokeless ‘Coal’: Sold in sealed bags clearly identifying the fuel as being smokeless with the following legal notice printed on the bag: ‘SMOKELESS FUEL – Contents comply with the Air Pollution Act Regulations’
- Peat - loose turf and baled briquettes.
- Wood - kindling, firewood logs, firestarter logs, etc.
Bituminous or smoky coal may be marketed, sold, distributed and burned at locations outside of a smoky coal ban area and by law the coal must have a sulphur content of less than 0.7% by weight.
Maps are available showing the full extent of the smoky coal ban areas in Co. Clare and may be obtained from the Environment Section, Clare County Council, Áras Contae an Chláir, New Road, Ennis, Co. Clare. The maps are also available to view online on the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government website www.environ.ie.
Further information can be obtained from the Clare County Council website, www.clarecoco.ie, or by contacting the Environment section of Clare County Council by telephone on 065 6846331.