Fresh air and clean water in Skibbereen, West Cork versus Winona, Minnesota where the quality of air consistently falls below national standards and water quality is impaired.
RTP Company, the parent company of Daly Products who hope to build a raw polymer compounding facility on the Baltimore Road Skibbereen, very close to Skibbereen AFC, the Retirement Village, the Golf Course and a number of residences, are headquartered in Winona Minnesota.
The factory they hope to build in Skibbereen is planned with four 16 metre emissions stacks; nevertheless the planning authorities and EPA have decided that they do not require an Environmental Impact Study to be done and have said that given the information they have been supplied with by RTP Company, the facility would require no Integrated Pollution Control licence nor even an Emissions Licence.
“Non Attainment Area” for quality standards for ambient air or the clean ambient air of Skibbereen?
Interestingly, RTP Company in Winona does have to be licensed and is set in a Non Attainment Area, which means the level of air pollution is persistently greater than that set by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
Indeed this area of Winona fails to achieve National Ambient Air Quality standards because of levels of ozone, lead, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter [i]
Skibbereen on the other hand performs very well when measured against the EU Directives on Ambient Air Quality Limits.[ii]
Particulate matter refers to small solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air and mostly formed as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide.
Some particles in particulate matter, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.
They are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and may even get into your bloodstream.
“Impaired” Waters with Toxic Discharges or the Cleanest Waters Ireland?
Winona includes a large area of Impaired Waters, which means the regulations and controls are not stringent enough to meet the water quality standards set by states for the quality of surface and ground waters. The RTP Company factory is close to the banks of the Mississippi. Pollutants found in the river include Mercury and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBS) which are neurotoxicants with intergenerational health consequences from maternal body burden and exposure during pregnancy[iv].
Along its course in Minnesota, 703,019 pounds of toxic chemicals were dumped by industrial facilities into the Mississippi River in 2010.[v] Indeed the Mississippi River ranks 2nd in the USA for total toxic discharges.
By Comparison greater than 90% of the Ilen River is classified as Class A, meaning it is among the cleanest waters in Ireland[vi]
The planners assessment for the factory proposed for Skibbereen states that the “Main impact (will be) on local flora fauna populations located downstream in the SAC from contaminated surface water on site”
Indeed they later state that all surface and process water will be discharged through Skibbereen Waste Water Treatment Plant, which discharges into the Ilen just upstream from the Skibbereen Rowing Club.
Just what Toxins are likely to be released from the proposed factory on Baltimore Road?
We really aren’t sure as the company have given so little detail on what plastic compounds they will be producing; however to find the emissions released from the parent company in Winona one needs to go to Toxics Release Inventory History of Reported Chemicals Released in Pounds per Year at the Site. [vii]
For each listed chemical the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) lists the total pounds
- released to air
- discharged to surface water
- injected underground,
- landfilled on-site,
- transferred off-site for disposal or to a Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW).
In the tables the letters “NR” or a blank record indicates the facility did not report an emission to TRI.
As in previous years the greatest toxic release in 2017 from the RTP Company site in Winona was from Antimony Products.
Finely dispersed particles of ANTIMONY form explosive mixtures in air and there is a risk of fire and explosion on contact with acids or halogens.[viii]
Long-term exposure to antimony via inhalation causes respiratory effects, such as inflammation of the lungs, chronic bronchitis, and chronic emphysema.[ix]
An increased incidence of spontaneous abortions, as compared with a control group, was reported in women working at an antimony plant [x] and laboratory studies show antimony exposure to cause fertility problems.
The EPA reports for RTP in Winona do not have detail of how the toxins were released as that detail has not been disclosed (In the tables the letters “NR” or a blank record indicates the facility did not report an emission to TRI) however as far back as 2001 Winona has had the highest risk of respiratory problems of any city in Minnesota[xii] and as the EPA diagram (Fig 1.1) above shows, the release could be from air, water or land fill.
We do not know if RTP/Daly Products intends to create the same pre- production polymers in Skibbereen as they do in Winona. They have supplied scant information in their planning application. That the EPA have not requested that they apply for an Integrated Pollution Control Licence then is all the more puzzling especially given that the site is so close to the Skibbereen AFC where children playing soccer will be taking in lungfuls of air and so close to a retirement village where residents may already have compromised breathing.