The State has incurred fines totalling €10.5 million and counting, over an ongoing failure to observe proper environmental standards at a wind farm in south Galway.

The penalties, imposed by the EU's Court of Justice, relate to an ESB-owned development in Derrybrien. They escalate by €15,000 for every day the situation remains unresolved.

Concerns over the impact the 70-turbine wind farm has on the local environment have persisted for almost two decades. 

During the construction phase in 2003, a massive landslide occurred, pushing thousands of cubic metres of peat down the Slieve Aughty mountains.

Deep trenches that were subsequently dug to assist drainage around the turbines increased the flow of water downstream. Locals contend this caused widespread flooding in the years that followed.

They say that while the bog used to act as a sponge for rain fall accumulations, slowly releasing over time, the pace and volume of runoff was greatly increased.

In 2008, the EU's Court of Justice criticised the State and ordered that the situation be addressed.

It found Ireland had failed to properly assess the environmental effects the development would have on the locality.

But despite the ruling, no action was taken to rectify the situation.

In November of last year, the Court imposed a €5m fine and stipulated that daily fines of €15,000 would be applied until the State complied with its order.

One year on, the fines continue to accrue.

The €5 million fine for non-compliance with the EU Court ruling was paid in January.

Tonight, the Department of Housing confirmed to RTÉ News that a further €2.7 million was handed over last month. That covered the daily fines incurred between November 2019 and May 2020.

As of today, Ireland owes an additional €2.8m to Europe in penalties for the period from May to present, which is a total of €10.5m, and rising.

The ESB has applied for something called "substitute consent" for the development and says it is not making any further comment on the matter at this time.

It submitted an application to An Bord Pleanála during the summer and a judgement on that is due early next year.

But the process is complicated by a Supreme Court decision last July, which found that elements of the substitute consent legislation were inconsistent with the European Environmental Impact Assessment directive.

The Department of Housing says that the State intends to address this "as quickly as possible" but the precise legislative approach has yet to be decided.

Locals who have been closely monitoring developments in relation to the wind farm have been reacting to the ongoing situation today.

Derrybrien resident Martin Collins says he has no confidence in the process being undertaken by the ESB. He says the saga is putting a huge burden on the community.

Mr Collins said the matter should have been resolved years ago, but "all the organs of the State" had allowed the issue to fester. He said ordinary people needed to have confidence in the process and needed to be assured that the ESB was serious about dealing with the problems.

He feels the European Commission may ultimately have to step in and take control of the situation.

David Collins of the South Galway Flood Relief Committee contends the ESB application to An Bord Pleanála showed the company was not serious about resolving the matter.

He said the remedial EIA was of such poor quality that the financial penalties were likely to continue to mount in the coming months.

He's called on the Government to step in and take action to deal with the problems for once and for all.