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26 May 2022

Waste from mica houses causing toxic dumps - claim

'We might be breathing in sulphuric acid- - claim

Waste from mica houses causing toxic dumps - claim

Mica might be a secondary problem now, it has been claimed

Concrete material coming out of houses that have been demolished under the mica redress scheme could be creating toxic waste dumps in Donegal County Council owned landfills, it has been claimed.

That was the shock revelation at Tuesday's Lifford-Stranorlar Municipal District meeting by Cllr Frank McBrearty

The independent Raphoe councillor claimed experts had recently revealed that mica was not the main cause of crumbling houses in Donegal, it was there but was only a secondary cause.

The real offender was deleterious materials and sulphate minerals such as iron sulphate and a combination of a pyrrhotite generated chemical called Thomasite which caused the formation of gypsum within concrete blocks and cause them to disintegrate.

"Me and others in houses affected might be breathing in sulphuric acid," he said.

Cllr McBrearty raised the matter during a debate on the planning.

He said wanted to know what happened to the deleterious materials and sulphate minerals following the demolition of affected homes.

"We have seven homes that have completed works, two of them are in full demolition and five falls under options 2,3,4, or 5.

The question is where have the deleterious materials and sulphate minerals been dumped?
Senior executive engineer in the council's community and planning services, Paddy Mullen said he would need to refer to colleagues in the council's environment section to see what was being done about the dumping.

Cllr McBrearty said he wanted to know the name of the engineer in charge of this so he could write to him.

Iron sulphate

"From my information, it should not be put into a landfill because it is toxic. There is overwhelming evidence that iron sulphate minerals constitute the primary problem with homes in Donegal and mica is a secondary problem.

He added this revelation came during a webinar last week by Dr Andreas Leemann, Group Leader Concrete Technology, Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology.

This, he added, was backed up by test results his father, Frank McBrearty Snr and cousin Brid McConnell and her husband Dermot Farrell obtained, which proved the problem with homes in Donegal was iron sulphate.

He explained that pyrrhotite generated a chemical called Thomasite which caused the formation of gypsum within concrete blocks.

"Experts who are advising me in relation to my father's High Court case say you cannot dump this stuff in a landfill. I want the council to tell me what inspections they have done in relation to the dumping of these materials from these seven homes and being dumped in landfills.

"I know that 21 homes are waiting to commence work and another 692 are in limbo, what is going to happen now," he asked.

In relation to the demolition and disposal of materials, senior executive engineer in the council's community and planning services, Paddy Mullen said he would have to refer them to colleagues in the council's environment section for an answer.

Cllr McBrearty said he would be proposing they hold a workshop and added it could be one of the most significant yet.

"If we don't get policing and oversight of the concrete and construction industry then we are facing the same thing every year for the next 100 years

"From all the legislation I have received at EU level and read on the council website, the council has a huge responsibility for oversight and the policing of these two industries.

Cllr McBrearty proposed it and was backed by cathaoirleach Cllr Gerry Crawford who said they had to examine their schedule to see when this could happen.

Later at the same meeting, Cllr McBrearty requested that the council's director of water and environment, Michael McGarvey attend their next meeting to explain what he claimed were the deleterious materials and sulphate minerals that were being dumped from demolished mica properties or where remedial works had been done.

Landfill

He added he wasn't satisfied with answers he had received via emails to date so felt it would be better if he attended in person to explain them to the members.

"He knows fine well that iron sulphate minerals cannot be dumped in a landfill because of the toxic nature of what comes out of the concrete.

"I want to know what the council is going to do about these toxic minerals. The health implications have not even been investigated by the Government yet.

"Me and others affected are breathing in sulphuric acid, something created in the chemical that comes from iron sulphate minerals.

"I want Mr McGarvey to come to our next meeting and tell the public what the council is going to do with these toxic materials coming out of the demolished structures.

"The more knowledge we as members have the more questions we can ask about why this industry has been allowed to get away with what they have gotten away with to date - thousands and thousands of properties are affected in this county by iron sulphate and secondary mica minerals and materials,” he said.

He was informed that the details of his concerns would be taken back to the environment section and he would be sent a formal response in relation to their planned action on where the waste materials were to go. He was also told Mr McGarvey would be told of his request to attend their next meeting.

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