NEW trials carried out on the farm of Dan Brennan, outside Castlecomer, show his cattle thrived and plants grew normally while the Ormonde Brick plant was closed.
It is alleged that the new study being carried out by the department of agriculture noted that once the factory reopened the cattle stopped putting on weight.
It is also claimed that trees, particularly ash and white thorn suffered after the factory reopened.
“You walk into the farm you see stunted cattle, damaged hedges and you look down the hill at Ormonde Brick, the number one suspect,” Mr Brennan told the Kilkenny People this week after a report published last week blamed the factory.
The local farmer has called for an independent body to examine what has happened on his farm.
CRH which owns Ormonde Brick said it was too early to comment on the latest allegations by a European parliament committee and said it would wait until the study was completed
Mr Brennan said that he is extremely worried for the future and said that while the factory was closed for three months at the start of the year, his cattle performed exceptionally well, above target.
“Since it re-opened they have remained static and the trees within the maximum fall-out area have been adversely affected as well,” he said.
Environment Minister John Gormley has asked for all information on the Dan Brennan farm case relating to the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be placed on his desk so he can study it.
Minister Gormley’s demand follows criticism of the EPA and the department of agriculture in the EU report that found enough evidence exists to indicate a probable or likely causal effect between the emissions from the Ormonde Brick factory and cattle on the farm a short distance way.
The problem with the EU Parliament Petitions committee is that it does not have any real power to force national governments to put things right.
CRH, the publicly quoted company that owns Ormonde Brick, is ready to go to war to defend its environmental record at the factory.
It has the power and the money to do so. It has already launched a defence saying that all its records were in order and that there were no breaches of EU environmental standards. (See box below]
However, pressure will now be applied to the department of agriculture and the EPA over their roles in the case of ill thrift of cattle and other problems on the farm over a 16-year period.
The good news for Dan Brennan is that the report confirms that he has always carried out his farming to the highest possible standards.
And the EU Commission which has wide ranging powers will put pressure on the Irish government to “get its house in order” regarding Dan Brennan’s farm.
Again the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has weighed in behind Mr Brennan.
“The EU findings back up what I have seen on my visits to Dan Brennan’s farm,” said IFA president Padraig Walshe. “He runs an excellent operation and the problems he has been experiencing are caused by a lack of selenium.”
Mr Walshe noted that the authors of the report criticised the Office of Environmental Enforcement and the department of agriculture.
“I have never doubted that there is a definite pollution source outside the farm causing the problem.
“I have always maintained that the EPA and department of agriculture have manifestly failed Dan Brennan and I support any avenue that holds out the prospect of finding a solution.”
Mr Walshe said the state agencies must move to identify the source and allow Dan Brennan to run his farm without these problems continuing into the future.
“He has been treated disgracefully by agencies that are responsible for protecting animal health and human health.
“The official response to a genuine farmer with an acute problem not of his own making was to isolate him and divert attention away from the source of the problem.”
He is seeking an urgent meeting with Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan and Environment Minister John Gormley to find a solution for Mr Brennan and his family.
The woman who initiated the EU petition is Green Party TD for Carlow-Kilkenny Mary White TD.
She has welcomed the findings of the report into the cause of shrunken cattle, stunted cattle growth, low milk yields and dead trees on the farm.
“As the person who wrote the petition, I am pleased that the committee found evidence to support a probable causal link between toxic emissions from local industry and ill-affects on livestock, trees and hedgerows on Dan Brennan’s farm,” she said.
“Up until now, this link had always been dismissed. For this reason, I also welcome the committee’s note on the methodological shortcomings of tests conducted and that the Office of Environmental Enforcement has been less than forthcoming in providing information.
“I now hope the relevant authorities can facilitate the recommended independent laboratory analysis on the animals and continue regular monitoring of the air and soil on the fields and hedgerows affected.
“Crucially, a more objective scientific assessment of the local industry and its processes is needed. After 17 years of suffering, it is time for Mr Brennan to receive long-overdue justice.
“It is also time for those possible breaches of EU air pollution and contamination laws to be investigated as pointed out in the report”, she added.
“Judging by the visible environmental damage mentioned above there would definitely appear to be a prima facie case to be answered.
She said that she awaited the EU committee’s recommendations with interest.
The EPA has defended its role in the monitoring of Ormonde Brick.
It said all information requested of the Office of Environmental Enforcement was supplied to the EU Commission in full.
“The EPA is not aware of any outstanding requests for information,” a statement said.
It added that licence enforcement information and any monitoring by the EPA or the licensed facility is placed on the public file.
“The EPA participated in an inter-agency investigation into animal health problems at Dan Brennan’s farm. Led by the department of agriculture, the investigation included an assessment of the emissions from the CRH brick factory, as it is located in the vicinity of the farm. The emissions were compared with all relevant environmental standards and form part of the Department of Agriculture Veterinary Laboratory Service report.
“It is our conclusion that the environmental impact of emissions, particularly fluoride, associated with the CRH brick factory are not sufficient to cause significant environmental pollution or animal health problems.
“These findings are consistent with those outlined in the completed Veterinary Laboratory Service report on the investigation.
“The EPA would be happy to participate in any further investigation into this matter, should that be deemed necessary,” it added.