Dáil: Gerry Adams TD and Minister Phil Hogan- Pyrite

by Bregs Blog admin team


In the following exchange Gerry Adams TD poses a number of questions to Minister Phil Hogan regarding recent pyrite affected projects. The Minister confirms that he was only made aware of this issue in April 2014 and believes it’s the responsibility of the local Authority to address the matter. Previously we posted that the issue of pyrite in blockwork actually made headlines in Donegal back in September 2013 (see post here).

Local authorities and in particular building control authorities are hopelessly understaffed at the moment. The Minister has stated that the reason he does not want to introduce more extensive building control inspections (and quite possibly quarry or material policing) is the cost of employing the necessary staff to provide this service to the public (see post here).

Dáil : Pyrite Incidence: 18 Jun 2014: Written answers- click link here

Extract off Dáil exchange to follow:


Department of Environment, Community and Local Government- Pyrite Incidence

Gerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)

115. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if he will report on the pyrite problem that has emerged in the construction of 25 homes at Moneymore, Drogheda, County Louth. [26308/14]

116. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the steps his Department is taking to ensure the problem of pyrite that has emerged in this instance is not repeated in other housing developments. [26309/14]Gerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)

117. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the discussions his Department has had with the North and East Housing Association Ltd. in respect of the pyrite discovered in houses it is constructing at Moneymore, Drogheda, County Louth. [26310/14]

118. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the measures his Department will take to ensure that the 25 new homes in the Moneymore, Drogheda, County Louth area are completed and available to citizens on the council housing list. [26311/14]

119. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department is aware of any other new developments about which there is concern at the possible presence of pyrite. [26313/14]

120. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if, in respect of the discovery of pyrite and the planned demolition of newly constructed homes at the North and East Housing Association Ltd. development in Moneymore, Drogheda, any on-site inspections were carried out over the course of construction by planning control inspectors and-or engineers; under building regulations, if any inspections or tests are carried out regarding quality of building supplies-suppliers; and if there will be a cost to the public purse. [26314/14]

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 to 120, inclusive, together.

A potential problem concerning pyrite in concrete blocks was signalled to my Department in early April 2014 by the market surveillance authority (i.e. building control authority) in whose functional area the block manufacturer is located. Subsequently, some industry representatives have also contacted my Depart ment in relation to the issue. Under the European Union (Construction Products) Regulations 2013, building control authorities are designated as the principal market surveillance authorities for construction products that fall within the scope of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) andare responsible for the market surveillance of such products. Concrete blocks are covered by a harmonised European standard ( EN 771-3 -2011-Aggregate concrete masonry units (dense and light weight aggregates)and therefore come within the remit of the CPR.

The European Union (Construct ion Products) Regulations 2013 provide building control authorities with a wide rang e of powers to ensure that constructions products placed on the market comply with the requirements set out in the Construction Products Regulation. Such powers include the issuing of a notice to require corrective actions to be taken by an economic operator within a specified period of time and, in the event of a serious risk being identified, to request the nister 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.

On being advised of the problem the relevant market surveillance authority took immediate and appropriate action under the applicable legislation to deal with this issue. The authorised officer of the market surveillance authority involved visited the premises of the block manufacturer and requested detailed information as to the precise nature and extent of the problem including where the blocks had been supplied, the actions taken or being taken by the block manufacturer to deal with the problem as well as necessary documentation to demonstrate compliance with the harmonised European standard for blocks and with the requirements of the CPR.

It is understood that a small number of construction sites have been supplied with the affected blocks, that t he company is co-operating with the market surveillance authority and has supplied certain information on the extent of the problem, the actions being taken to provide for a resolution and compliance documentation. Additional information has been sought from the company to provide clarity o n a number of pertinent issues.

My Department has written to the building control/market surveillance authorities in whose functional areas the construction sites to which it is understood the blocks were supplied are located and advised them to visit the construction sites identified for the purposes of assessing whether the concrete blocks used in the construction works on these sites are “proper materials” within the meaning of Part D of the Building Regulations 1997, i.e. that they are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions in which they are to be used.

One of the developments involved is a social housing development of 25 dwellings commissioned by North and East Housing Association Ltd. in Moneymore, Drogheda, County Louth. As matters stand, it would appear that six houses in the development will have to be demolished due to the incorporation of defective blocks in the construction. Testing of the blocks on the six houses involved confirmed the presence of pyrite in the blocks and the solution is for demolition and rebuild. It is understood that the contractor and the concrete block manufacturer are co-operating in order to provide a resolution to the problem through the construction contracts. Further testing of the remaining 19 houses in the development is being carried out and these results are awaited to determine what, if any, remedial action will be needed in respect of the remaining houses. On completion of a satisfactory resolution to these matters, the 25 housing units in Moneymore will be made available for social housing purposes.

From the information available at this stage, it appears that testing has also been carried out in a small number of other developments identified as having been supplied with the affected blocks which has confirmed the presence of deleterious material (sulphates/pyrite) in the blocks. My Department understands that in each case the costs of resolution are being pursued, in the first instance, with the relevant contractors and suppliers through the construction contracts. The actions taken thus far by the relevant parties involved suggest that the regulatory system is functioning effectively and that an appropriate means of redress is being pursued through those responsible for the building failure.

My Department will continue to work closely with the building control/market surveillance authorities involved in dealing with this particular matter to monitor the situation. It will continue to provide whatever advice, guidance or clarifications as are required to ensure that the necessary actions are taken to resolve the problems identified and to safeguard against defective products being placed on the market.

Other posts of interest:

Pyrite News roundup- week ending 13th June – click link here

Pyrite blocks in Donegal- October 2013. – click link here

Dáil debates: Mick Wallace and Minister Hogan- Pyrite – click link here

Quick history of pyrite- press articles – click link here

Dáil Questions: Minister Hogan and Pyrite – click link here

Radio: Drogheda houses affected by pyrite – 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