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Update on EPA Licence Review – 20.04.2020

Posted on 20.04.2020 - updated on: 16.04.2024


April 20th

This document is an information update on the company’s licence review with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The review that is underway is of Gyproc’s Industrial Emissions Licence (IE) and we look forward to its conclusion.


All details of the IE licence review process are available to the public and can be found at http://www.epa.ie/licensing/. 


For ease, a key update on the IE licence review process is below.

  • Gyproc is not proposing any change to its mining activities as part of this licence review.
  • Gyproc, as part of its normal mining operations, releases into the river Bursk naturally occurring groundwater with naturally elevated sulphate levels. 
  • This water has been released in accordance with an IE licence issued by the EPA for many years. The rate of water release and methodology continues to be monitored by Gyproc and reported to the EPA. 
  • An ongoing program of monitoring has been in place for many years regarding the release of this water and monitoring takes place at agreed points and at agreed frequencies along the River Bursk and further downstream. The results of the monitoring are reported to the EPA on a regular basis.
  • The groundwater, when initially found, is pumped to conditioning tanks on the surface prior to release to the River Bursk. This water contains no additives – either when found or when released to the River Bursk. 
  • The water released by Gyproc contains naturally occurring sulphate (also sometimes spelled sulfate) and the amount of water released can vary somewhat at different times of the year depending on the flow of water in the river.
  • The IE Licence controls the quantity of water that Gyproc releases at any moment in time by imposing a limit on concentration of Sulphate in the River Bursk a short distance downstream of the release point.
  • Since the water levels in the River Bursk can vary at different times of the year, the current IE Licence granted has the effect of requiring Gyproc to store water during the summer and release it in the winter. For many years until Oct 2018, this water was stored in the old Drumgossatt mine workings.
  • Acknowledging that the quantity and nature of the water found underground can vary from time to time, Gyproc is not seeking permission, nor does it intend to, materially increase the amount of water or total quantity of sulphate that it is permitted to release during normal operations. Under the proposals submitted by Gyproc as part of the licence review, the total amount of sulphate in the water discharged by Gyproc to the river over the course of a year will not significantly change and will reflect a more evenly spread release throughout the year. 
  • This allows Gyproc to avoid the storage of large quantities of water in the underground workings in the Drumgossatt or Drummond mines.
  • The proposal from Gyproc, is made following careful study of the nature and impact of the water release on the River Bursk which has taken place for the duration of quarrying and mining activity at the Drummond site, in operation for more than 30 years. The licence review application is supported by detailed technical studies on the releases proposed by the company, the nature of the groundwater itself and its effect on the habitat of the River Bursk and the water courses it joins as it travels downstream.
  • These studies are consolidated in the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR), and all data and technical reports which explain in detail the releases proposed and the impact it will have on the environment are publicly available on the EPA website. (http://www.epa.ie/terminalfour/ippc/ippc-view.jsp?regno=P0519-04)


Information on Sulphate/Sulfate

It is important to note that sulphate is a naturally occurring substance and many tests have been conducted internationally to assess the impact of sulphate consumption among humans and animals. One such study is available on the World Health Organisation (WHO) website (https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/sulfate.pdf). This report concludes in section 7 of the report; “The existing data do not identify a level of sulfate in drinking-water that is likely to cause adverse human health effects.” And that “..no increase in diarrhoea, dehydration or weight loss.” is attributed to sulphate in drinking water for humans.


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