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03 Jul 2022

'Government allowed defective concrete scandal'

'Predominant problem is Iron Sulphide Attack' – Donegal Councillor

'Predominant problem is Iron Sulphide Attack' – Donegal Councillor

'Predominant problem is Iron Sulphide Attack' – Donegal Councillor

A motion to change the name of Donegal County Council's Mica Redress committee to the Defective Concrete and Defective Concrete Blocks committee is to be brought before full council later this month.

The motion was proposed by Cllr Frank McBrearty (Independent) and seconded by Cllr Martin McDermott (Fianna Fáil), who chairs the redress committee, at its meeting on Thursday.

Cllr McBrearty said the name change was crucial to reflect the fact Mica was not the problem any more.

He added: “The predominant problem is Iron Sulphide Minerals. Mica is only part of the problem, along with Reactive Pyrite.

“I am proposing the name of this committee be changed to reflect the real cause of the problem in Donegal homes and properties. The word 'Mica' is confusing the whole subject.

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“The scheme should be called the Defective Concrete Scheme because foundations are also affected by these aggregates and minerals and concrete means all concrete products.

“It is in the legislation IS EN 771-3 [Irish Standard adopting the harmonised EU standard for Aggregate Concrete Masonry Units] and IS EN 12620: 2002 [Aggregates for Concrete].”

Cllr McBrearty also contended the 90/10 Redress Scheme had been suspended and the proposed Enhanced Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme had been described as “unworkable” by one of the creators of IS 465: 2018 [Protocol used to assess damage in properties where the concrete blocks are suspected to contain Mica or Pyrite].

He said: “The Enhanced Scheme being proposed today is not going to work. I have made a submission and a request to the clerk of the Dáil committee which is going to debate the whole subject and the Bill coming before the Oireachtas in the next couple of weeks.

“This whole subject has been based on guesswork to date. Our Council engineers are well aware of what is contained in visual estimates in Test Suite B results from Petrolab. They are showing the predominant problem is Iron Sulphide minerals, not Mica. Mica is a problem but Mica is not the predominant problem.

“On that basis, Donegal County Council's engineers have an ethical obligation to inform the public and to inform Government the problem in Donegal is not Mica.

“The people who have campaigned for this [Enhanced Scheme] politically and the people who have campaigned for homeowners are entitled to do so but they are not tuned into the facts of what is really the problem in Donegal. They have requested a number of things, which the Government has now delivered and which are going to continue to fail homeowners in this county,” said Cllr McBrearty.

The Raphoe councillor said the biggest problem was the Enhanced Scheme was based on the Pyrite Scheme in Dublin and Leinster.

“The Leinster Pyrite issue is completely different to the problems we have in Donegal,” said Cllr McBrearty. “The problems in Donegal are: Free Muscovite Mica, Reactive Pyrite, Pyrrhotite, Rare Pyrite, Minor Pyrite, Chalcopyrite, Rare Marcasite, Sulphuric acid, formation of Thaumasite , formation of secondary Gypsum, and other minerals and others forming from the Iron Sulphides. John Gallagher [Senior Engineer, Donegal County Council] is well aware of that as a qualified structural civil engineer.

“The bottom line is, IS 465 is flawed. It was created around a standard that was not there. It should have been created on the standards for manufacturing concrete and concrete blocks. Concrete is the subject, not concrete blocks. The Standards are based on concrete, which all products come under.

“What the public does not realise is, everybody who has been paid back their engineer's fees is going to have their engineer's report and test results binned. Under the Enhanced Scheme they are going to have to start the whole process all over again by getting a Building Condition Assessment. Then they will have to get past the Damage Threshold, as is the case in the Pyrite Scheme in Dublin.

“The Enhanced Scheme has been designed around certain deleterious materials. IS 465 fails for Iron Sulphide Minerals. I am basing my opinion on peer literature published worldwide on this whole subject. I have also been in correspondence with Dr Andreas Leeman [Switzerland] an international expert on Iron Sulphide Attack. Donegal homeowners are being fobbed off by a Government that has deliberately manipulated the whole situation and now we are facing the fact they are going to pass a Bill which is not going to include the material outlined in my recent motions on the issue,” said Cllr McBrearty.

Cllr McBrearty laid responsibility for the issue at the door of the Government, who, he said, had no proper oversight or policing of the industry.

He added: “Neither did Donegal County Council police that industry under the Building Control legislation and the Market Surveillance Legislation that was in place since 2014.

“I am now calling on this committee to be the voice for the people of Donegal. We are the public representatives and should now directly lobby Government because it is our democratic mandate to do so, to represent the people and raise the issue of this scandal in Donegal. Different political parties Council that have direct contact with their national parties.

“I want to bring to the Dáil committee my submission, along with experts including: Dr Ambrose McCloskey; Professor Paul Dunlop and Dr Andreas Leeman.

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“That committee needs to understand exactly what the problem is in Donegal. It needs to hear experience and expertise backed up by proper scientific evidence, to produce proper engineering solutions advised by proper engineers. Options 2,3,4 and 5 should be immediately withdrawn from this process. Option One, full demolition, is the only option open to cure this problem and resolve the homeowners problems,” said Cllr McBrearty.

He added that Government was delaying dealing with the issue of defective concrete so it did not have to pay for the mistakes it caused.

“The Government allowed this to happen. It did not ensure our rights as homeowners and as citizens of this country were protected.

“A desk top study and guesswork was created to deal with the problem. This committee's role now, in my opinion, is to be the voice of the people of Donegal as the Government is using the campaigners.”

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