Right to Know wins case over access to records from Dublin Airport on use of air filtration to combat spread of COVID-19 during pandemic

The Commissioner for Environmental Information (CEI) has ruled that records on the use of air filtration systems at Dublin Airport during the pandemic are environmental information.

In 2022, Right to Know had sought copies of how much the daa (formerly Dublin Airport Authority) had spent on air filtration along with copies of health and safety assessments and other documents on their use.

The daa refused the request both initially and at internal review saying the records we sought could not be considered environmental information.

However, the CEI has ruled against them saying that the use of air filtration (sometimes known as HEPA filters) was a measure that was likely to affect the environment.

The daa originally tried to claim that the definition of “air” in the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) Regulations only related to “outdoor air”.

However, the CEI said there was no such limitation in the regulations.

The daa then tried to say that the information we had sought did not relate to the air quality in the Dublin Airport buildings.

The CEI also rejected that argument, saying: “This information will give insight into the considerations that influenced daa in implementing measures to improve air quality within the terminal buildings.

“The request specifically refers to COVID-19 and the cost of such measures will give the public an insight of the cost burden that was placed on public authorities such as daa when seeking to minimise the spread of COVID-19 within its environs.”

The request has now been sent back to the daa for a new decision.

It’s worth mentioning that the initial request was made on 29 March 2022.

Two years have passed, the pandemic is over, and there is now nothing to stop the daa coming up with a new set of reasons not to release the information.