Local authority warns of fines for coal burning as winter bites

Residents in north west Northern Ireland have been threatened with penalty charges for failing to comply with regulations, leading to a significant emissions spike.

Between Friday 9th and Sunday 11th December, areas in the Northern Irish counties of Tyrone and Londonderry recorded high levels of emissions linked to the burning of coal.

black and red fire in close up photography

Although concentrations have now dropped, the incidents have led to a government-issued warning that anyone found using the fuel in locations with a smoke control zone order in place, effectively only permitting smokeless fuel, could be forced to pay up to £1,000 costs.

‘When fuels such as coal, wood and turf are burnt, the smoke they emit can contain harmful gases and microscopic particles which can cause damaging health effects,’ said Seamus Donaghy, Head of Health and Community Wellbeing at Derry City and Strabane District Council. ‘Smoke control areas are in place to control domestic particulate emissions from solid fuel burning and protect the public’s health and the quality of the air that we all breathe.’

Sunday saw health alerts warning people in Strabane that air pollution was at level 10 on the Air Quality Index – the highest on the scale – despite smoke control regulations first being introduced in 2007. As a result, ‘enforcement activities’ will now be carried out by the local authority. Recent cold conditions have led to an increase in demand for residential heating, with cooler air also known to trap air pollution at ground level, exacerbating the problem. 


In October, Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister, Edwin Poots, ruled out a blanket ban on smoky coal despite public health and environmental concerns. A similar ban is in place in the Republic of Ireland. 

Image: Michal Matlon



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