Regulators have called for stronger scrutiny of the concrete sector throughout the State after taking “corrective action” against three Donegal-based manufacturers in the wake of a special audit of quarries in the county.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien requested the Donegal examination last year, months before the Government approved a €2.7 billion mica redress scheme for the owners of homes damaged by defective bricks. Donegal was the county worst-hit by the issue.
Nine concrete-block makers were among the 17 Donegal market participants inspected in the audit by the National Building Control and Market Surveillance Office, Donegal County Council and the Geological Survey Ireland.
The report notes “levels of non-compliance” with construction product regulations in Donegal but says such findings are “consistent” with non-compliance throughout the State.
“It is apparent that further work needs to be done, not just in Donegal but in the rest of the State,” it says.
The report calls for stronger market surveillance to increase compliance with regulations, noting a “lack of understanding” about documentation and the obligations to specify end-use requirements of products.
“It is important to build on and strengthen the market surveillance activity in relation to ‘economic operators’ placing ‘aggregate construction products’ on the market, noting that not every product containing aggregate is a ‘construction product’ for the purpose of the construction products regulation; the end use being the determining factor,” it says.
The Department of Housing said the degree of formal non-compliance with industry rules uncovered by the audit was “significant” but it noted there was no general concern with the actual products.
“This audit highlights the importance and value of active market surveillance in the quarrying sector and the need to continue this work in Donegal and on a nationwide basis,” Mr O’Brien said.
According to the report, the “issues” in Donegal primarily related to errors and omissions in paperwork and “generally did not reflect a concern with the tested performance” of the products.
“Concrete blocks were sampled from nine manufacturers in Co Donegal and sent for testing to determine the level of technical compliance with [regulations],” the report states. “The results of the tests carried out show that all the concrete blocks sampled met the declared performance levels on the required technical documentation.”
Formal corrective action was imposed on two market operators in respect of concrete blocks and one in relation to aggregates, the material mixed with cement to form concrete.
“This involved adjustments to factory production control processes and/or recertification audits by the notified body with a view to bringing the products back into compliance with the [concrete products regulation] to the satisfaction of the market surveillance authorities… The process of addressing these issues is ongoing by the economic operators.”