Dáil Questions: Minister Hogan and Pyrite

by Bregs Blog admin team

phil-hogan-fine-gael

Dáil Questions: Minister Hogan and Pyrite

In the following Dáil  Written answers from Wednesday, 11th June 2014, Mattie McGrath TD poses some questions to Minister Phil Hogan regarding the recent re-occurence of pyrite in a number of recent developments which have come to light this week.

Pyrite Issues: 11 Jun 2014: Written answers (KildareStreet.com)- click link here

In answers to queries regarding the extent, responsibility for and regulations surrounding pyrite issues the Minister stated the following:

  • Department was made aware early April of a re-occurrence of Pyrite
  • Responsibility for policing for pyrite rests with Local Authorities (Building Control Departments)
  • Redress will either be directly from parties involved in projects (Insurance companies) or via courts
  • New NSAI standards have been issued

We have previously posted about the lack of additional resources allocated to Local Authority Building Control departments regarding SI.9 (see post here). Also the current regulations impost very onerous responsibilities on Certifiers due to CPR 2013 incorporation into Part D of the regulations (see post here). It is clear from the Minister’s answer that little or no additional resources have been allocated to market surveilance, spot-checking and enforcement of existing standards by Local Authority Building Control departments. Consumers would appear to still rely on self-certification by suppliers or manufacturers. Consumers, it would appear, will still be seeking redress through the courts in the event of a property being affected by Pyrite.

Even though the Department has known about this defective product for some time, industry commentators have been quite critical that there is no “early warning” system to alert the industry as to possible defective materials like pyrite-affected blockwork. It is quite possible that these defective products may have been specified and used on other projects in the intervening period between April 2014 (when the issue was first brought to the attention of the Department) and this week, when the story broke publicly.

Little change or comfort for consumers unfortunately.

Extract from Dáil to follow:

________

Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)

106. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to 30 newly constructed houses that have already been identified to be demolished because of a new pyrite problem in the concrete blocks used in their construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24912/14]

Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)

108. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if he and his Department are aware of a new pyrite problem regarding concrete products and if so, if the companies involved have notified his officials and have they taken any action in that regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24914/14]

Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)

109. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if the construction industry is going to be severely effected with the latest new pyrite problem; if payments to sub contractors and cash flow is going to be an issue for the contractors involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24915/14]

Phil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106, 108 and 109 together.

A potential problem with concrete blocks in the Leinster region was signalled to my Department in early April 2014.

Concurrently the relevant market surveillance authority (local authority) in the jurisdiction where the concrete blocks were manufactured was also made aware of the matter.

Under Regulation (EU) No . 305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products and repealing Council Directive 89/106/EEC ( known as t he Construction Products Regulation or the “CPR”), manufacturers are required to provide robust and reliable information in a consistent way for construction products which are covered by harmonised European standard s or European Technical Assessment s . In broad terms, since 1 July 2013, manufacturers are required , when placing a construction product on the market, to make a Declaration of Performance and to affix the CE mark to each product . The relevant harmonised European standard for concrete blocks is I.S. EN 771-3:2011 Specification for masonry units – Part 3: Aggregate concrete masonry units (Dense and lightweight aggregates ).

Under the European Union (Construction Products) Regulations 2013 , building control authorities have been designated as the principal market surveillance authorities for construction products that fall within the remit of Construction Products Regulation. Under these Regulations, market surveillance authorities have significant powers to deal with situations where constructions products are placed on the market which do not comply with the requirements set out in the Construction Products Regulation.

From the information provided to date, it appears that a single manufacturer is involved in this particular case and that the relevant market surveillance authority took immediate and appropriate action to deal with the issue when it was brought to its attention. The relevant market surveillance authority has engaged with the manufacturer, in the first instance, to identify if there was a problem and thereafter to determine the precise nature and extent of the problem, the actions being taken by the manufacturer to deal with the problem; additional documentation is also being sought to demonstrate compliance with the manufacturer’s obligations under the Construction Products Regulation.

Responsibility for demonstrating a construction product’s compliance with the requirements of the Construction Products Regulation and the applicable harmonised European standard(s) rests with the manufacturer although obligations are also imposed on both the importers and distributors of such products. My Department understands that t he manufacturer appears to be co-operating with the market surveillance authority on this issue. While certain information has already been provided by the manufacturer, additional information is being sought to further clarify a number of issues, including more precise information on the extent of the problem and the distribution of the defective blocks.

A number of sites have been identified where it is alleged the defective blocks were supplied and the relevant building control authorities in those areas are also taking appropriate actions in relation to the relevant construction works to establish whether or not the requirements of the Building Regulations are being complied with. In general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, i.e. the homeowner, the builder, the manufacturer, supplier, quarry owner and/or their respective insurers. In the event that the contracting parties cannot reach a settlement by negotiation the option of seeking redress in the Courts can be considered. It is understood that the contractual arrangements between the parties involved in the known cases are being used to address matters and are providing the mechanisms for resolution.

While I understand that resolution may require a number of the houses /buildings to be demolished as a consequence of the incorporation of defective blocks in the construction it is not possible at this point in time to say if all of the dwellings in the sites identified are affected and if this course of action will be required in all cases. In this regard, I am not in a position to identify what impact, if any, this problem will have on the cashflow of the contractors involved. These are matters typically governed by the terms and conditions set out in the contractual arrangements between the relevant parties to a construction project.

This is a serious matter and both my Department and the relevant building control authorities involved are working closely to ensure that the necessary actions are taken to resolve the problems identified and to guard against defective products being placed on the market.

Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)

107. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the reason his Department has not introduced new regulations on the quarries producers, the industry who caused the previous pyrite problem and now the same industry which are, in some cases, still supplying contaminated products three years later in the form of contaminated blocks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24913/14]

Phil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)

The report of the independent Pyrite Panel (2012) recommended inter alia, that in light of the knowledge and experience gained since 2007 when the problem of pyrite was first brought to the attention of my Department, a more detailed and specific testing, certification and traceability regime should be put in place for hardcore material to be used in dwellings and buildings . Following receipt of the report and in light of the recommendations in the report, I asked the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) to undertake a review of Standard Recommendation (S.R.) 21:2004+A12 007 which provides specific guidance on reducing the risk of reactive forms of pyrite being present in hardcore material for use under concrete floors in dwellings and buildings. The review of S.R.21 was completed late last year and a revised standard, S.R.21:2014 , was published in March 2014 following a public consultation process.

Annex E of SR 21:2014 has been revised in line with the recommendations of the Report of the Pyrite Panel and gives recommendations for specifying material properties and recommendations for procedures for production of unbound granular fill (commonly known as hardcore) for use under concrete floors and footpaths. More explicit guidance is given on the geological and petrographic assessment to limit the risk of swelling due to the potential presence of a reactive form of pyrite. The minimum test frequencies under Factory Production Control (FPC) for some properties are increased in order to improve confidence within the supply chain. The system of attestation and verification of constancy of performance has changed from system 4 to system 2+ for this particular end use aggregate. This crucially creates the requirement of third party oversight by a notified body who, once satisfied, issue a certificate of conformity of the factory production control on the basis of initial inspection of the quarry and of the FPC as well as continuous surveillance, assessment and evaluation of FPC.

In addition, a Code of Practice for the procurement and use of unbound granular fill (hardcore) for use under concrete floors and footpaths is currently being prepared, again under the aegis of the NSAI.

The Code will provide best practice guidance on post manufacturing operations such as procurement, haulage, delivery and receipt, storage and handling, placing, record management with the aim of improving the chain of custody within the supply chain and ensuring the traceability of hardcore suitable for this particular end use. It is hoped that the Code of Practice will be published shortly.

The new specification for hardcore to be used under concrete floors in the construction of houses and other buildings , which includes a requirement for independent oversight, and the traceability provisions in the proposed Code of Practice will improve the specification, manufacture and traceability of hardcore from the quarry to use on building sites thus ensuring that there is full oversight of all stages in the supply chain.

In a broader sense, Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products and repealing Council Directive 89/106/EEC ( known as t he Construction Products Regulation or the “CPR”) requires manufacturers to provide robust and reliable information in a consistent way for construction products which are covered by a harmonised standard or a European Technical Assessment. From 1 July 2013, manufacturers of construction products which are covered by harmonised European product standards are required, when placing a product on the market, to make a Declaration of Performance for the product, and to affix the CE mark. There are harmonised European standards which cover a range of quarry products e.g. aggregates, concrete blocks, precast concrete products.

Under the European Union (Construction Products) Regulations 2013 building control authorities have been designated as the principal market surveillance authorities for construction products that fall within the remit of the Construction Products Regulation. Under these Regulations, market surveillance authorities have significant powers to deal with situations where constructions products are placed on the market which do not comply with the requirements set out in the Construction Products Regulation. They can issue notices requiring corrective actions to be taken by an economic operator within a specified period of time, obtain warrants to enter and search premises and, in the event of a serious risk being identified, to request the Minister to prohibit or restrict a construction product from being made available on the market, to withdraw it from the market or to recall it, or to make its use subject to special conditions as deemed appropriate.

A person guilty of an offence under the Regulations is liable:

on summary conviction to a Class A fine (€5,000), or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or both, or

on conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €500,000 or to imprisonment for a terms not exceeding 12 months or both.

Other posts of interest:

Radio: Drogheda houses affected by pyrite – click link here

PYRITE & THE ASSIGNED CERTIFIER – click link here

Government Reports & Professional Opinion Ignored in S.I.80 – click link here

RTÉ Radio: Pyrite Alert – click link here

Building Control Officers need help! BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

RIAI PRACTICE ALERT: Pyrite in blocks – click link here

Practical Post 16: Pyrite and certification? – click link here

The regulations ignore key recommendations of the Pyrite Panel – click linkhere

Assigned Certifiers facing jail? BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

Clear and auditable trail: consumer protection? BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

Legal perspective: consumer benefit? BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

 

 

Advertisements