The government dropped legal actions in relation to the cost of cleaning up the former steel plant at Haulbowline in Cork four years after it was warned that pollution from the site could pose a high risk to the health of local residents.
The state had been attempting to force the liquidator of the defunct Irish Ispat steel plant to cover the cost of cleaning up the site, but dropped all outstanding actions in early 2006. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act last week show that the state was warned four years earlier that there were ‘‘high risks’’ from wind-blown dust and leaks of poisonous material into the ground and water surfaces.
The warning was contained in a 2002 investigation of the site carried out by British consultants Enviros Aspinwall. It was estimated in 2006that cleaning up the site would cost about €30 million, but figures stated in the Dail last week suggested that the real cost of the clean-up operation could be ten times that amount.
It emerged last month that the site at Cork Harbour may contain more hazardous waste than previously thought. Traces of the carcinogen chromium 6, lead and mercury are among an estimated 500,000 tonnes of toxic waste buried at the Haulbowline site. The Naval Service has closed off part of its lands at Haulbowline while an investigation is carried out into the environmental dangers posed by waste.
Before the 2006settlement, the state had failed in a larger action to force Irish Ispat’s liquidator, Ray Jackson of KPMG, to pay the full cost of the site. However, the state decided to continue with a number of other summonses, including one action under the Polluters Act, to force Jackson to cover some of the clean-up cost.
The state said it dropped all the outstanding actions based on legal advice. Irish Ispat was formerly Irish Steel, the state-owned steel mill. Ispat Mexicane, a steel company owned by Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, acquired the firm in 1996, before closing the company down five years later with the loss of 450 jobs.
Sunday Business Post