Seanad Éireann - Volume 113 - 01 July, 1986

Air Pollution Bill, 1986: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. McMahon: I congratulate the Minister on bringing forward this Bill and hope it will get adequate hearing in the time available to us. I sincerely hope that no effort is being made to rush this Bill through. I am glad the Minister took the trouble to go into detail in her presentation of the Bill here last week.

The danger of pollution occupies all our minds. In all areas of life today our great fear is that whatever product we are using will affect, to some extent, amenities or other products which are there for our use and enjoyment. I must comment on the efforts now being made by the Minister for the Environment to clean up the countryside. Many of us in this House and in the other House have been emphasising the need for such efforts for a number of years. Some local authorities made little effort while others made a great effort to clean up their areas and make them less objectionable for these who have to live in or pass through them.

The Minister's efforts will assist in some way with regard to lowering the amount of air pollution. This Bill is intended specifically to deal with the [1566] problem of air pollution which, thank God, we have had very little of to date, but who knows what the future holds in that regard? Here I would sound a note of warning for fear that the present Minister or indeed any future holder of the office would rush into measures unnecessarily. It is one matter to be prepared for something that might happen but it is another to jump ahead of the happening and take measures that might prove to be unnecessary and which might cause hardship. I will deal with that later.

First, I will deal with the built-up areas of Cork and Limerick, the larger towns and, of course, my own city of Dublin. Much can be done to reduce the amount of air pollution in and around Dublin which is probably the area most likely to have a rise in air pollution in the future. We have not paid sufficient attention over the years to this problem and I regret that Dublin has never examined the possibility of an underground system of transport. If we had an underground system it would make a major contribution to cleaner air around our streets and in and around our houses. The greatest problem with air pollution is not from our houses or from industry but from the traffic on the streets. If there was an underground transport system in the city, not only would it help improve the traffic problems but it would also help in having cleaner air.

I am reluctant to be too critical of a public body who give to the best of their ability, a public service. I refer to CIE but I have to fault them in their contribution to air pollution. I do not have to illustrate to anyone in this House the amount of pollution one can witness coming from the exhausts of buses when stopped at traffic lights or in traffic. Of course, other vehicles also make a contribution to this and steps have been taken in the recent past to reduce the amount of pollution from vehicles run on petrol. I had occasion last winter to leave this House at approximately 8 p.m. and go to St. Stephen's Green to wait for a bus to Terenure. I could not get away from St. Stephen's Green quickly enough. It is not the worst location in the city to be [1567] standing at a bus stop nor is 8 p.m. the worst time but it was as bad a polluting air as I would ever want to witness. If there were buildings on the other side of the street it would have been even worse.

I regret having to say that CIE have made very little effort to reduce the pollution coming from buses. A number of taxis also contribute to air pollution. While the majority of taxis are well run and serviced, some vehicles are run down to such an extent that they give off pollution into the air. The people of Dublin deserve better than that.

The rapid rail system from Bray to Howth has made a contribution to reducing air pollution. I regret that we have not made greater progress with regard to the provision of a similar rapid rail system from Tallaght to the city centre. If we are to have an extension of the rapid rail system, Tallaght has been ear marked. It has been investigated and CIE have issued a lengthy report. They have indicated that they would be prepared to go ahead with this development if the finance was made available. I urge the Minister to make this finance available. It has been pointed out in other reports that it would be uneconomic to extend the rapid rail system because the one now in operation operates through the most densely populated area. To extend the service to the county, where the density of population is far less than on the eastern side of the city, would be uneconomical. I am not saying that such a rail system should pay. If it is possible it should but are we to measure the economics of it in that way?

If it made a major contribution towards reducing air pollution, consideration should be given to providing such a system even if it meant subsidising it. If air pollution increases it will cost money to eliminate it. A recommendation has been made to make the polluter pay. I am in favour of that but it is not always possible. Where there is a combination of factors polluting the air, it would be very difficult to apportion the amount of [1568] money one should pay towards eliminating that pollution. I do not regard air pollution here as a serious problem because of our low density housing and the spread and nature of our industry. With a little care we will never reach the limits laid down by the EC.

No attention has been give to the development of open spaces or spaces available within built up areas where trees could be planted. Attention should be given to the type of trees planted in such areas. Other countries such as France and Germany, give particular attention not only to the quantity of trees planted and where they are planted, but also the type of tree they plant. Trees can reduce air pollution and indeed reduce noise. We do not pay enough attention to this kind of development.

It is interesting to note that in recent times air pollution in my own area, Tallaght, has decreased. I received a report today where the EC limit of 250 microgrammes per cubic metre for smoke is determined in two ways: if the returns show readings in excess of 250 microgrammes or more on more than three consecutive days or if the returns are in excess of 250 microgrammes on more than 2 per cent of the days sampled in any year ending 31 March, the year April to March being the standard year for the purpose of this calculation throughout the EC. It is worth noting that the annual average in the Tallaght area shows no pattern and, in fact, decreased in 1985-86, having increased in 1984-85 as against 1983-84. The factors contributing to this decrease should be examined. Is it as a result of the fall-off in industry? It cannot be said that the people in the area have burned less fuel as there are far more houses occupied in Tallaght this year than there was in the years when air pollution increased. Despite the increase in house occupation, the smoke volumes in the area have decreased.

I am fearful that the powers that would be given to local authorities would enable them to take unnecessary action. I cannot find anything in the Bill to prevent a local authority, on the advice of an engineer, [1569] from taking action where it is not necessary. The Minister should hold a rein at all times on the actions to be taken by the various local authorities. While we all have great faith in our professional staff and in the collective action of local authorities, it sometimes happens that a pressure group in an area would draw attention to a problem, in this instance air pollution, and could influence, say, an engineer or those who are responsible for monitoring air pollution. They in turn would report to the local authority and outline action that would be necessary, in their view, but which might prove to be totally unnecessary.

There is great fear among the manufacturers of fireplaces and the suppliers of fuels for open fires that action may be taken in the future. I hope that the Minister will ensure that whatever powers are given to local authorities, this kind of action will only be taken if necessary. There is a high labour content involved in the provision of fireplaces and fuels for open fires.

It has not been proved to any great extent that there has been an increase in air pollution. The reverse is the case especially in Tallaght where we have had an increase in population and in house occupancy. Despite this the air pollution for last year, when we had one of the worst winters as far as burning fuel is concerned, has decreased. If open fires make a significant contribution to the polluting of air that should have happened in Tallaght. As is outlined in the report, there has been a decrease in pollution in that area. The Minister should allay the fears of those engaged in house building and say, that no action will be taken irresponsibly. He should tighten up the regulations within the Bill to ensure that no crazy nut will put before a local authority a report which would be so convincing as to have that local authority take measures that are not necessary. It should be borne in mind that if such an action were taken, a lot of hardship would be caused to many families who rely for heat on open fires.

A few years ago we attempted to build [1570] houses without open fireplaces for whatever reason — perhaps to save the housewife from dirtying her hands, or indeed the husband for that matter, when cleaning out the fireplace — but that was a mistake. Hundreds of houses in the Dublin area were built without fireplaces. It was discovered later that the people could not live in them. An open fireplace is not only desirable but is necessary to give adequate ventilation.

There are bodies who lobby to try to convince people that air pollution is getting out of hand. Of course we all want to keep the air clean and ensure that the air we breathe does not contain pollutants. We want to have as healthy and as long a life as possible. Unfortunately we get pressure groups who are well intentioned but who, perhaps as a result of reading articles in newspapers — I do not have to elaborate on how newspapers can escalate these items in telling us that certain things are going certain ways and when the poll is taken it goes directly the other way — get hysterical about something that might never happen.

It is important that we do not take action to have a smoke-free zone where it is unnecessary. They are in existence in other countries where the density of population is far greater. I hope we never get to a stage where we have to ask a family to close up their fireplace or to buy a house that has not an open fireplace within it. As a public representative for Dublin south and Dublin south-west, I have had my fill so far as houses built without open fires are concerned. I do not want ever again to see houses being built like that. I say this because of the discomfort the lack of a fireplace causes to a family, in terms of dampness and so on. Many of these families living in the Dublin area, who are living from week to week, pay for their fuel as they have been paying for it for years, that is, on a weekly basis. If we force them to use other means of heating their homes, by oil or gas, for instance, where they would receive monthly or quarterly bills, they will never forgive us for it. Many of them could not rise to that. Every care should [1571] be taken to ensure, not only that the air of the country and city is pure, but that we do not come down on the housewife, the householder or the family living within the city or indeed in the sprawling suburbs in a way that would be unfair to them.

It can be suggested that there is a direct relationship between air quality and industrialisation. It might be no harm to go further into the monitoring of the air in my own area where, despite a reduction in industry, and an increase in the population we have had a reduction in air pollution.

I would like to see — and this has been suggested in the Bill — that there would be three year reviews. I hope that whatever regulations are laid down in this Bill will be reviewed from time to time by the Government because if we arrive at the situation where a local authority are being pressurised by some group, however well intentioned, there is a likelihood that action might be taken causing some severe hardship on some citizens that would be proved to be unnecessary.

I do not know if it is intended to finish this Bill in this session, but I hope not. I hope that many other Senators who are prepared to make a contribution will be given the opportunity to do so and that adequate consideration will be given to all aspects of the Bill. There are a number of other items which I would hope to deal with on Committee Stage.

I hope that when enacted this Bill will leave us prepared to meet any EC directive, though I do not believe that we will ever be at the stage where these directives can be called in. If we take reasonable action now pollution of the air here should not rise to such an extent that we would be looking at these EC directives. Hopefully, we will be looked upon as one of the cleaner air countries. We have a golden opportunity to take reasonable measures to ensure that our air remains as clean as it is. We do not have any near neighbours with heavy industries. There is no activity near our shores or our boundaries, as might be the case in other countries in Europe, that we might fear. [1572] We are in an adequate position to protect our air, to ensure that we never have a serious problem and that consequently there will be no need to get excited about the whole matter of air cleanliness.

There has been reference to the acid rain problem. We have a report in that regard before us. Again I do not see any reason for getting excited about this problem either because to date we have not had acid rain to any great extent. If it was there at all, it was scarcely noticeable. Unlike other continental countries, we need not have any great fear on that score. However, I am glad to see the report and to note its warnings so that we can give some attention to this question and be prepared for acid rain should it ever come our way.

There are other aspects of the Bill which I hope to deal with at a later stage but I will and on the note of thanking God for the clear air we have and by urging all concerned to approach this problem with a reasonable attitude to ensure that should the unforeseen happen, we will be prepared for it. In the meantime, let us not lose our cool or cause any unnecessary hardship to any section of the community.

I hope the Minister will give some attention to the hard words I have had to say about CIE because I will be repeating them on another appropriate occasion. I hope that some corrective action will be taken by CIE in this matter of pollution because I believe they are today the greatest polluters in the city of Dublin. I regret to have to say that but it is my honest opinion and it is a conclusion that I have not reached lightly.

I hope that the Minister for the Environment will give some consideration to providing an extension to the rapid rail system and give us that line to Tallaght which would help in giving us clearer air. I hope the Minister will give some attention also to giving us an underground. Many people may say that Dublin is too small for an underground, but there are smaller cities in Europe with undergrounds. Oslo is one that comes to mind. An underground system has been recently installed there. I would see an [1573] underground here as making a major contribution. If we can sort out the traffic problem then it will be easy enough to deal with pollution from domestic sources and from industry.

Having said all that I would be prepared to admit that there are some people in the industrial area — some cowboys whom I am not going to mention here, but they are quite well known to those who are interested — who have been moving from one site to another salvaging material which has been encased in plastic or rubber. These people work indiscriminately from one area to another. As the local authorities make chase or threaten to take them to court they pretend they have gone out of the business but merely move on, mostly to the mountain areas, to burn the plastic or rubber off other materials that are encased therein. They are causing great pollution of the air.

This kind of operation should be stopped and should be stopped pretty quickly. The Minister may, of course, say there are regulations whereby it can be stopped but I say they are inoperable. When these people are threatened with prosecution they move on and in a few weeks time they start burning this material in another area. Ninety-nine per cent of industrialists are responsible people who would be prepared to meet local authority requirements with regard to reducing pollution of the air. People engaged in the building industry and in the manufacture of fireplaces are reasonable people and would be prepared to meet the local authority or anybody authorised by the Minister to investigate ways and means of reducing pollution caused by smoke, which, in my estimation, is not polluting the air to the extent that some sources have claimed in the past.

I ask the Minister to take note of my remarks regarding the Tallaght figures and to get those figures from the local authority so that my point can be proved. The vast majority of people engaged in any industry where there may be a risk of pollution are reasonable people and are prepared to take some measures and [1574] go to some expense to ensure that the air is kept clear. Those people are living here and they want clean air just like the rest of us. I ask that there be full consultation with all interested parties, manufacturers and indeed with the building industry to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to reduce the pollution in the air. Without this consultation no severe action would be taken by the Department of the Environment to ensure that a local authority would not take unreasonable action.

Mr. Fallon: The world we live in now lends itself to air pollution. As has been said by the previous speaker, the smoke from our own private dwellings, industrial buildings, power generating stations, the cars we travel the roads of Ireland in and the aeroplanes we travel abroad in are all factors which are causing obvious air pollution. Clearly it is a problem for us at present and will be for the future.

The effects of air pollution are well known. It may cause direct damage to structural metals, surface coatings, fabrics and other materials. This damage could be in many forms such as weight loss, fading, loss of strength, loss of gloss or cracking. We have the same situation in relation to agricultural produce. It is well known that much of our food and crops have been shown in the past to be susceptible to air pollution. Examples would range from stunting of growth of crops, decrease in size, leaf damage and so on. The level of smoke and sulphur dioxide in the air which cause health effects on humans is a problem and is well known.

The Minister says that the Bill will confer on local authorities the necessary powers to ensure the protection of air quality in their areas and will confer on the Minister for the Environment power to set standards and issue directions and policy guidelines so as to secure the necessary degree of consistency in implementation throughout the country.

Clearly the role of the local authority is all important in this important Bill. I assure the Minister that local authorities would welcome proper devolution of powers and the right to be fully involved [1575] in the social and economic development of their areas. For years, as the Minister knows, the local authorities have been directly, and through their representative associations, urging various Ministers to devolve adequate powers and functions and, of course, finances to local authorities. Various Governments have assured us of their commitment to elevate the powers and the functions of local authorities and elected representatives to a satisfactory level. Equally, nothing has happened except that more functions have been assigned in recent years but, unfortunately, without the resources to implement them. Obvious examples of these over the past few years are the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977, the Casual Trading Act, 1980, the Litter Act, 1982 and the Animals Bill, 1985. There have been also numerous EC Directives. All these pieces of legislation call for the increased involvement of local authorities in carrying out duties and functions in order to make the legislation effective.

This involvement of local authorities, however, cannot be properly or adequately implemented without the provision of extra resources to local authorities to allow them to provide the services that are expected of them. It must be noted that this happened not at a time when local authority finances were static but at a time when local authority finances were cut back over all and in real terms. I am certain local authorities are neither negative nor defeatist. They must gain the resources in order to carry out their functions. It is a simple fact of life. It is not sufficient to say that the functions of local authorities are extended in this important Air Pollution Bill without giving them the resources to implement the legislation. Otherwise, I suggest we are dealing with a mere cosmetic exercise.

The present legislation confers further powers on local authorities in this important area. I represent not just one but two local authorities. The question which could be asked by elected members of local authorities who are being savagely [1576] affected by the restriction on local government finances is where will the resources to implement this proposed Air Pollution Bill come from? The Explanatory Memorandum gives very little clue as to where the money is coming from because it says:

Because the Bill is largely a framework for regular action and because the commencement of its sections and their application to different areas is likely to be on a phased basis specific staffing and other cost implications are difficult to estimate at this stage. The costs arising under the Bill for the Department of the Environment, for local authorities and for anybody exercising functions by reason of section 21 are likely to relate mainly to staffing and monitoring equipment.

This is very important.

The Bill will be implemented with due regard to Government policy and public service employment.

We all know what that means at present in terms of Government policy, the general thrust of the present Government and indeed Governments generally. That is a factual statement. The Bill will be implemented with due regard to Government policy on public service employment. Finance is not mentioned in the Bill. There is an absolute and total lack of financial commitment in the Bill for the work we are expected to do under this Air Pollution Bill. I and many other members of various local authorities once again ask the Minister to bring forward a proper structure for local authorities and give them the resource to do the job. It is no longer acceptable for the Minister to say to local authorities that they are free to strike their own rates, to improve their services, when the basis on which these assumptions are made are on a very narrow premise. Resources have been drastically reduced in recent years. Without increased revenue, services will be extremely limited, if not curtailed entirely. This will call for positive developments by the Minister to come up with [1577] a blueprint which will give to local authorities both the opportunity to exercise adequate powers and functions and the right to raise their own resources with a guaranteed minimum income in order to adequately develop their own services. Year in year out we are faced with the impossible situation of increasing demands for services, when the revenue to meet such demand is restricted or is not there. In January 1985 the Minister for the Environment said:

The need for reorganisation in the local government system has been recognised by successive Governments and the question has been under examination intermittently for several years. The local authority structure has not been changed fundamentally in this century. In that time there have been major changes in the functions of local authorities and in the social and economic environment in which they operate. The system has not been adapted to those changes for the growth in population and urbanisation. The Government are embarking on a programme of action to strengthen the system of local government and to extend its functions in matters affecting the welfare of local communities. This will involve, extensively, reforms in the organisation, functions and financing of local authorities and considerable legislation.

In the same speech the Minister refers to the fact that farm tax will be passed on to the local authorities and, further on, he refers to the NESC study on local authority financing. Given that that statement was made by the Minister for the Environment over 18 months ago we know that no fundamental changes have been brought forward which will give to the local authorities adequate sources of funds to carry out the various tasks which are expected of them.

The Minister may appreciate my concern in this matter when he realises that in my county alone the funds provided from our own resources for road maintenance amount to over £1 million and that [1578] the local authority will need to be provided with almost a further £1 million to maintain the road network to the standard required. Under the present system this cannot be done.

There are other examples I can give. With regard to public lighting we require another £50,000 simply to turn on lights which are already erected but which had to be turned off. A further £630,000 is needed for work under local improvement schemes, provided that the Minister makes these resources available to us in the current year's allocation. With regard to public conveniences we require an extra £10,000 to meet fully our existing commitments. With regard to industrial estates we require an extra £40,000 to bring them to a standard which we would like for 1986. To effectively continue the fight against pollution we estimate another £50,000 is required. These are a few typical examples. They could be explained in greater detail. The same problems exist for every local authority. We are now involved in a clean-up week. We join with the Minister in his campaign to clean up Ireland and we will be as positive as any other local authority in relation to this joint venture. But again, an extra £50,000 would be very welcome if we were to carry out an overall effective campaign.

In my county we have a shortfall of £600,000 for existing drainage schemes, as well as £363,000 for the Boyne drainage demand which is now imminent and which is not provided for in our 1986 Estimates.

What I am relating is typical of every local authority in Ireland. They can produce figures much worse than those I mentioned. How can we proceed with a Bill to do a lot of extra work when the finances are not being provided? I say to the Minister that local authorities cannot continue to ignore figures such as those I have given and their impact on local authorities. It is a miracle that they have managed to survive and still maintain a reasonable level of services for our people.

We have reached the end of the road — literally as well as figuratively because [1579] our road system all over the country is disintegrating at an increasing level. I do not think we are in a position to take on extra legislation without the proper finance being given to us. I appeal to the Minister to consider once more the present situation in relation to the functions and the finances of local authorities, to wake up and to realise that if something is not done soon then the present system will collapse very quickly indeed.

It is my view that until finances are provided we should not proceed with the type of Bill we have before us — important though it is. I am not just saying this about this Bill but of other Bills and further legislation which the Government are going to heap on us without proper financing. It will have to stop.

It is hoped — I am reading from the explanatory memorandum — that this Bill will provide a comprehensive framework to deal with existing and emerging air pollution problems. I feel that it does not and cannot go the full way, for the reasons I have given, to effectively control air pollution. What is needed is legislation which firmly directs local authorities, imposes rules and regulations which have to be observed and for which the proper finances are provided from Government. This is a very vital part of the Bill.

Mr. A. FitzGerald: We are very fortunate generally in this country, especially the great counties of Galway, Kerry and, indeed, Westmeath. I could mention quite a few more. The counties I mention do not have a problem of a high incidence of air pollution. Most of the country is not part of the large urban sprawl. Air pollution exists to a large degree in Dublin city and county and in the bigger urban areas in other parts of the country. Cork is an obvious centre where there is an air pollution problem.

The Bill is addressed to environmental protection, protection of public health, plant life and buildings. Let me get to the point quickly, a point which my colleague, Senator McMahon, was making a [1580] few minutes ago. I do not suggest — although some commentators in the media and elsewhere may have gone along that road — that we have a smog problem similar to that which existed in London and Manchester in the fifties which, indeed, have benefited by the introduction of the clean air zones to such an extent that the population in those cities have enjoyed as much as a 75 per cent increase in winter sunshine over the past 30 years. I do not for a moment suggest that the position in Dublin in the 1980s is in any way comparable to what existed in London in those times. The Minister said on Second Stage that the most serious breach of daily smoke standards of 250 microgrammes per cubic metre which occurred in 1984-85 involved a figure of 738 microgrammes per cubic metre at one of the monitoring stations.

This level is clearly unacceptable but in order to put the matter into perspective I should mention that the levels of smog recorded in London in 1952 were of the order of 7,000 to 8,000 microgrammes per cubic metre and the level of 4,500 microgrammes per cubic metre was reached at the London monitoring station in December, 1962. I am making the point in a general way that the difference between the problem that existed in London in the fifties and what has been prevalent in Dublin in the course of the last year are of two totally different orders, two totally different scales and they are not in any sense to be compared. That, of course, does not mean that we have not got a problem in relation to air quality and the cleanliness of air conditions in many urban areas.

It is fair to say that the smoke problem that exists in Dublin in recent years has had a very variable pattern. Smoke declined, as I understand it, in the early seventies to rise by 60 per cent between 1975 and 1980. Of course, we reached a period in 1981-82 when there was a very serious problem as measured in the City of Dublin. I quote from a book by John Blackwell and Frank J. Convery from The Resource and Environmental Policy Centre of University College Dublin which states:

[1581] The number of sites exceeding these limit values between 1973/74 to 1981/82 are given in Table 3.3. The deterioration in air quality is clearly evident in 1981/82 compared to the late 1970s when only one or two sites breached daily limit values. Eight out of the 13 sites failed to comply with the directive with seven sites recording a daily 98 per cent tile smoke level of more than mg/m³ One such site also exceeded the limit value given for daily sulphur dioxide levels and the annual limit values were breached at two city centre sites.

The position in 1981-82 was very dramatically different from what had been experienced certainly in the early seventies and largely through the seventies. Of course, we were dealing with a special situation at that time. As I understand it, low inversion conditions existed when we had a problem with cold weather and calm wind. I remember the particular winter we are talking about when we had snow on the ground and, as I say, the calm and cold conditions brought about that disimprovement in air quality.

In the years since then there has been a continuing variation of air quality. In the last two years there has been a marked improvement in air quality in the Dublin area and I should like at this point to thank the Chief Environmental Health Officer for the City of Dublin who has gone to great trouble in recent years in not just producing his annual report but going further to analyse month by month the position as between atmospheric smoke and smoke and sulphur dioxide and, of course, going on to look at elements of other air pollution. The report — we are talking of the period 1 April 1984 to 31 March 1985 — attributes 60 per cent of existing smoke levels to domestic services. That compares with 80 per cent in previous years. There has been a marked improvement in recent years.

The report attributes 15 per cent to vehicle emissions and 25 per cent to industrial and commercial sources. The reason for this is, of course, the advent of natural gas into the Greater Dublin [1582] area which is not just being used by domestic consumers but resources have been taken up by the industry and we are aware that the Guinness concern has been using natural gas recently. It had a conversion to natural gas. Estates, like Ballymun in the North city, are now using natural gas. There has been a move in that direction. What the Bill is intended to do is not to immediately set guidelines but to bring to the attention of local authorities the existence of the EC Directive and to enable them to move in on situations where there is a marked deterioration over a period of time in the air quality conditions which those using an area and particularly residents had to put up with.

This enabling Bill is important. It is essential that we have this mechanism to deal with areas which have been showing in periods of low inversion a marked deterioration and to be in a position to deal with the problems that arise in those situations. I do feel — and this point has been made strongly by the Coal Information Services and, among others, those involved in the manufacture of fireplaces — that what is important is that when the local authority decide to act they have some scientific basis for their actions, that they do not simply rely on the measurements that are got through the monitoring stations, that they go to some trouble to establish the cause from one area to another of that pollution and deal with it then in an ordered way rather than to expect in an area where there is a problem that the answer is to apply the problem to everyone without isolating where it particularly emanated from.

It is very important in the period ahead, with enabling powers available to local authorities when this Bill is passed, to ensure that there is a greater use of solid, smokeless fuels using appliances that burn with a lesser element of smoke escaping into the atmosphere. These solid fuels, it will be suggested, can be expensive and sometimes there is a variation in the availability of such fuels. There is no doubt about it that appliances are available and are being developed to enable householders to use smoke reducing fuels or to have fuels used in a fire that [1583] would be smoke reducing thus adding another method of trying to control the emission to smoke into the atmosphere. There is a great deal of ingenuity in this area and much attention is being given to what can be achieved in relation to the level of smoke allowed to filter into the atmosphere in some areas of high concentration of residential housing. I am thinking in particular of areas like Ballyfermot, Cabra and Rathmines in Dublin.

To run into an area of low inversion one can be frightened by the extent to which the carpet of smoke can be seen by the naked eye. We need to ensure that those involved in the manufacture of not just fuels but also appliances are given as much assistance as possible to improve the air quality rather than remove from the many thousands that might be involved the availability of the open fire which has its own appeal. Much research can be encouraged in the future to ensuring that every attempt is made to find the answer to this problem.

I noticed from the Minister's Second Stage speech that some progress was being made in relation to a problem that was referred to also by Senator McMahon, the problem of emissions from motor vehicles. The Minister mentioned on Second Stage that regulations to reduce the maximum lead content of petrol from 0.40 to 0.15 grams per litre came into operation on 1 April last giving a reduction of some 60 per cent in lead emissions from motor vehicles. While that is to be welcomed, it is important to say that the Bill does not contain enough in consideration of the fact that 50 per cent of all city smoke, 12 per cent of sulphur dioxide and most of the city's noise, atmospheric lead and the other pollutants to which I referred cause major emissions into the atmosphere. As I understand it, legislative control in regard to traffic smoke, fumes and noise is contained in the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles Regulations), 1953. The Garda are the designated enforcement authority, [1584] not the local authority. These regulations have not been repealed or updated.

I would ask the Minister to give some indication as to why we are not going for wider powers in relation to emissions from motor vehicles as of now. This Bill would seem the appropriate time for dealing with it and I would ask that she give a little more elucidation as to why we are not going somewhat further in relation to control in this area.

I welcome the enabling powers being given to the local authority in this Bill. I think they are important for the whole environmental quality of large tracts of urban areas particularly in the centre of Dublin. It may be that Tallaght and other places are safe enough but there are parts of the greater Dublin area which do have problems that need to be faced up to. I hope they are faced up to based on scientific data and that we will give sufficient time to those involved in the design and redesign of the best form of fuels and equipment to come forward with their suggestions.

The Bill is not before us at a time when there are unlimited resources available, unlike the position in Britain at the time of the introduction of the Clean Air Act there when there was a great deal more resources available to that country, comparatively speaking, than would be the case here. They did attempt to bring in their Bill at a time when they could act and move towards much greater realisation of their intentions on conversion. Here we have got to move gradually and, of course, this enabling power would only be introduced area by area. It would not be intended at any stage that any local authority would adopt a clean air zone throughout their local authority area. They would move slowly to identify where the problem is and then ensure that steps are taken to deal with the most hazardous situations while at the same time from this point on giving every encouragement to those whose ability it is to design and those who are involved in the construction area to adopt ways of confronting this problem now. I do not believe that we should be contemplating building homes that do not attempt to [1585] recognise, especially in the built up areas of Dublin and Cork, that there is a problem and that the form of heating that is used, be it solid fuels or otherwise, is not taken into account in designing the burning equipment.

Mr. Fitzsimons: I am very glad to have the opportunity to make my contribution to this Bill. It is an important Bill and I am particularly glad that it has been introduced in the Seanad. It is a Bill to which we can do more justice on Committee Stage. We will be introducing many amendments at that time.

Earlier this evening Senator Howard made a very spirited defence of this House. He spoke very eloquently, as Senator Howard invariably does, about the commitment of the Members of this House. He was speaking in relation to a very important amendment which the Minister for Justice introduced at the request of the Members of this House.

I should like to say, in passing, with regard to the criticism of this House and its Members, that we do not have the facilities that we should have when examining Bills of this nature. Over the last while very important Bills have come before this House. Anybody who was interested and who wanted to make a meaningful contribution had to spend a considerable amount of time on research in examining those Bills. With regard to this Bill which requires expertise of a very special kind, which is in the domain of the experts, we are very inhibited in that respect. It is unfortunate. I know and realise from personal experience that the research staff which we have in the Library are of great help and are very committed people. In some areas when reports are ready, unfortunately, typing facilities are not available. In order to make a meaningful contribution to a Bill of this kind, it is important to be properly briefed, to be familiar with the subject. We have not got that kind of support and it is unfortunate.

The Bill is important. Members or anybody who takes an interest in what I say will know that I do not criticise any Bill for the sake of being critical. I like to [1586] approach everything on its merits in an objective way. That is the way I am approaching this Bill. However, any Bill that comes before the House can be improved and many Bills are improved here. This one is no exception.

I should like to refer to some of the matters raised by Senator A. FitzGerald which I had intended to raise. One of them is control of traffic pollution in respect of which there is a very serious defect in the Bill. On Committee Stage we will be introducing amendments. This is a very specialised area and it is not easy to frame amendments to cover something which has been omitted. However, we will have the recess which will give us an opportunity to do more research before we table amendments.

It is particularly significant and unfortunate that there has been this omission. We know from various reports that there is considerable criticism with regard to emissions from domestic premises, because of low chimneys in areas of high density where there is terraced housing. The emissions in those areas are far above the emissions of traffic pollution. By and large, they are also confined to very cold winter periods.

With regard to traffic pollution my understanding from the An Foras Forbartha report, Air Quality in Ireland, is that in the Dublin area sulphur dioxide traffic pollution accounts for 3 per cent; transport is responsible for 14 per cent of smoke. The emissions are just about or below breathing level. There could be no comparison in my view. Throughout the year on cold days, hot days, through the winter and summer there are these emissions through the city and particularly in the centre of the city.

While I suppose we do not have the inversion situations in the summer time that Senator A. FitzGerald referred to, nevertheless, we have calm periods. There is this concentration all the time. In my view, there is a very serious omission from the Bill which should be rectified before the Bill passes this House. The noise problem could have been dealt with in this Bill. It may not be easy to consider noise in relation to pollution. At the same [1587] time, it is an area covered by the Dublin Corporation environmental pollution reports. We would all like to see a higher standard in this area. We are very much concerned about the environment and clean air and any matter which interferes with enjoyment of the environment. We have noise from air traffic, traffic on the roads. Many people at times have referred to the tourist situation in this country. By and large, people like to go on holidays to quiet areas. It is important from that point of view also and from the point of view that noise brings stress into people's lives. It is unfortunate that noise was not included. Perhaps, before the Bill is finalised in this House, this deficiency will be made good. This is an enabling Bill. It provides no finance, which is very important.

I should like to say in passing with regard to fires in domestic dwellings that some attempt should have been made many years ago to provide grants and incentives to influence people and convince them that it is in their own interest to provide appliances for the burning of fuel and I regret that this has not been done. It would be a mistake if people were to feel that because we have this legislation on our Statute Book the problem will be brought under control. There are many areas which I could point out where this is not so. For example, in the Water Pollution Act, 1977 which was regarded as up-to-date and important legislation at the time, provision was made to give power to local authorities to make water quality management plans for rivers and lakes in their areas and to date I understand that only one such plan has been made. But, more important, since then we have had greater pollution problems.

In County Meath we have carried out a very comprehensive survey on overdeveloped rural areas contiguous to the Dublin region. There is a very serious water pollution problem there as there is in many of the areas surrounding Dublin where there is an overspill from the capital. We have legislation to deal with that. It was considered farseeing at that time [1588] and even now I suppose it has the capacity to deal with the problem if finances were available but apparently finance is not available. At a time when local authorities have a serious problem in running their day-to-day business this Bill will create further problems for them. It is a mistake to think that legislation in itself will cure these problems.

Under the Planning Act of 1963 there is provision to make three preservation orders and I believe that this has not been availed of by Dublin Corporation or throughout the country as a whole. With regard to listing for preservation of important plasterwork ceilings, for example, Frank McDonald has pointed out that not one order has been made. Also, with regard to factory regulations, where we have the most comprehensive legislation in Europe I read in the Irish Indepdendent of Monday 23 June 1986 that 29 people were killed at work in the period covering 1983-84 according to a Department of Labour report published that day. It says that the total number of reported accidents during the same two years was 7,699 while provisional figures for 1985 suggest 18 deaths and 3,573 accidents. That is in a situation where we are supposed to have the most up-to-date legislation in Europe regarding control of factories, building sites and all that area. Clearly, legislation in itself is not enough.

Education is necessary in this regard. The carrot is far better and far more effective than the stick and in the past a serious mistake was made in not trying to influence people to use stoves or special appliances for domestic dwellings.

We have comprehensive laws dealing with the litter problem but in my estimation the situation is becoming far worse throughout the country. Only yesterday as I was driving along a lady in a car in front of me travelling at about 40 miles per hour opened the door of her car and threw out a bundle of rubbish — obviously she wanted to have a very clean car and she did not think any further. That is a sad situation and I am not sure what the answer to it is but it certainly must be long term. There are more ways of getting people to behave in a socially [1589] acceptable manner than through legislation.

There should have been a Green Paper to set out the broad parameters of policy. That would have given those who have a vested interest or special interest in that area an opportunity of making representations at that stage. It is important that people with vested interests get an opportunity to make their case. They have a right and a duty to do so. It is unfortunate in a sense that this Bill was sprung on us and that that opportunity was not given. Also, a White Paper should have been produced. This opportunity was missed also. On many occasions in the past I have spoken of the benefit of bringing the people with us in whatever we want to do. It is much easier to do that than to drag people. We cannot drag people.

I have misgivings with regard to this Bill, particularly where no money is provided in a situation where money is so scarce and where the local authorities obviously will have to foot the bill. Home owners will find an escalation of their heating costs. It is not simply a matter of replacing the open fire with an appliance — and I am very conscious of the place of the open fire in our culture and tradition. In rural areas particularly the fireside was the focal point. I grew up in the tradition that a family that had fire and food for the winter — in other words the clamp of turf and the pit of potatoes — was very happy, contented and self-sufficient. Even though things have changed in many ways, and unfortunately not always for the better, that tradition dies hard. The fire has been a great influence in Irish history both for song and story. People met around the fire and recounted tales of other days and told stories. Even in the design of present day houses the fireplace is very important. It is unfortunate that we are coming up against the situation which this Bill attempts to grapple with at a time when through advances in techniques, in science and application, we are reaching a stage where greater efficiency even with the open fireplace is attainable by [1590] restricting flues to a minimum, by providing under-floor ventilation which nowadays in most houses is mandatory at least from the point of view of conservation of heat. We are reaching a situation of greater efficiency but the whole impetus of the attempt by the Government, through grants and incentives, to provide fireplaces seems to be undermined to a large extent by this Bill.

When we come to deciding whether we have a serious problem, the position is not as clearcut as I would like it to be. Overall, it seems from the reports by Dublin Corporation and the environment pollution section that we do not have a major problem. I would like to congratulate Dublin Corporation and Mr. Patrick O'Reilly, the supervising environment health officer, for the standard of those reports which are presented in a very simple and understandable way.

In considering the pollution problem and in looking through the various treaties, booklets and works dealing with pollution, there are various descriptions used. I will deal with those later. For the moment I will deal with the pollution problem as I understand it from the 1984-85 report of Dublin Corporation. It is also unfortunate when we are dealing with this important Bill on Second Stage that the 1985-86 report is not available. I hope it will be printed before we reach Committee Stage.

I am not clear whether the periodic breaches which are identified — they are few in number in this report — are more important than the yearly average figures given in a later section. In other words, I am saying we can look at two situations, for example, the daily median over a yearly period, and if we compare that with the following year or all the years for which a survey has been carrried out and see that the graph is rising or falling, we can come to a certain conclusion. If I see that the graph is rising with regard to the number of micrograms per cubic metre I come to a conclusion that there is a deterioration in the position. We can have that without a breach of EC rules.

There is the other area, the area which obviously spurred on this legislation and [1591] the area where this problem should have been taken in hand in time. This legislation would not have been necessary if proper provision had been made and encouragement given to people in problem areas. If we look at those areas where there were periodic breaches, they are few in number. Which of those situations is more important? Is it where we have the periodic breaches or where we are concerned with the daily median? It seems to me, and I hope I am coming to the correct conclusion, that it is more important that the overall trend should be stabilised or going downwards rather than be unduly influenced by the periodic breaches. When we look at the graph in that publication by the environmental pollution section in the 1984-1985 report, we see with regard to sulphur dioxide and suspended particulate matter which is smoke, the trend is, by and large, downwards with the exception of a period in 1981-1982 when we had unusual conditions which are unlikely to arise again.

The trend seems to be totally downwards. The conclusion I would come to from examining this graph over the period 1972-1984 is that we have no serious problem. In fairness to the Minister she dealt with that in some considerable detail and came to the same conclusion. I quote from the Minister's introductory speech. She said:

For the record, therefore, I should point out that the EEC smoke standards are being breached, not just in parts of Dublin but also in large population centres, in France, Federal Germany and Italy, and Britain and Northern Ireland. The most serious breach of the daily smoke standard of 250 micrograms per cubic metre which occurred in 1984-1985 involved a figure of 738 micrograms per cubic metre at one of the monitoring stations. This level is clearly unacceptable but, in order to put it in perspective, I should mention that the levels recorded in the London smog of 1952 were of the order of 7,000 to 8,000 micrograms per cubic [1592] metre and that a level of 4,550 micrograms per cubic metre was reached at a London monitoring station in December, 1962.

The Minister then stated and I would emphasise what she said:

Let us therefore, maintain a sense of proportion in discussing the smoke levels in Dublin.

It is most important that we would have a sense of proportion. The graph clearly shows that except for one particular year, we had a downward trend.

With regard to other breaches, I do not think that these are a great cause for concern. I will refer briefly to the situation as it is recorded on page 101 of the report. The values which are quoted are in micrograms per cubic metre. As I understand it, according to the EC Directive, the year median of daily values is set at 80 if the smoke is greater than 40 and at 120 if the smoke is equal to or less than 40. The number of stations meeting the value is 14 and the number of stations not meeting the value is none. In winter — that is from 1 October to 31 March, — the median of daily winter values is 130 if the smoke is greater than 60, 180 if the smoke is equal to or less than 60. There are 14 stations and again not one of them breached that standard. The year 98 per cent dial or daily values is 250 if the smoke is greater than 150; 350 if the smoke is equal to or less than 150. There are 14 stations and again not one of them exceeded that value.

That was for smoke and sulphur dioxide. The limit value for smoke only was slightly different. The year median of daily values is fixed at 80; 14 stations carried out tests over the year and there were no breaches. In winter period, from October to 31 March, the limit value for smoke is 130 and in the 14 stations there was no breach. The year 98 per cent dial of daily values is set at 250; eight stations carried out tests and there were six breaches. Again, as I understand it — and of course I am subject to correction — this is a particularly strict test where the seven day — 98 per cent dial refers to [1593] seven days — do not have to be consecutive; they could be at different times and over an extended period. Then, with regard to that 250 value it is stated that member states must take all appropriate steps to ensure that this value, that is 250 microgrammes per cubic metre is not exceeded for more than three consecutive days. Moreover, member states must endeavour to prevent and reduce such incidences in which this value is exceeded. Of the ten stations four of them exceeded this value and two of these stations breached the value on two occasions.

Overall, I think that the picture is certainly not alarming. It is clear that this legislation is a result of the EC Directive and many people would ask is it necessary that the EC should influence legislation at this time when we have so many more important areas to look after; the areas of unemployment, of health and indeed many others that I could mention. I suppose many people would say that it is a good thing that the EC has this influence at present.

However, before I leave that area I would like to restate that it appears to me from the picture that is painted by these reports and indeed by the latest report from Dublin Corporation to cover the last month of this winter that the situation is improving all the time. This report I am considering now is the March 1986 report. With regard to that report the Coal Information Services have pointed out that the third monthly bulletin on atmospheric pollution issued by Dublin Corporation shows that the March median smoke levels in Dublin are 35.4 per cent lower than in the corresponding period last year. The figures are based on data obtained at the corporation's official monitoring stations. The Coal Information Services Report says that the figures confirm the continuing decline in pollution levels in Dublin's air. It is hard to contradict that. Clearly, that statement is made having regard to the figures and graphs in the latest report. It is important to remember this. Smoke levels for the winter period were 60 per [1594] cent below EC limits. That is a considerable amount having regard to what the Minister has stated in her report.

The report of the Coal Information Service referred to the reasons for this improvement in the figures — the spread of the population from the inner city to the suburbs; a wider choice of fuels; the increased availability and usage of smokeless fuels; the development of more efficient fuel burning appliances and their increasingly widespread use.

It is important to consider all these and in the light of that again it appears to be unfortunate that a serious attempt, or some attempt, was not made a long time back to influence people to use appliances. That opportunity is gone; it is lost now and there is no point in regretting it. Even at this stage I feel that it would be possible to do without this Bill. In the densely-populated portions of the city where this problem has reached what might be considered serious proportions, if an attempt were made to provide financial help in the form of grants and other ways to people to change over to a system which would use smokeless fuels, this legislation would not be necessary.

Debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended at 9.30 p.m. and resumed at 9.40 p.m.