An incinerator proposed for Rathcoole in Co Dublin would pose a serious risk to the health of locals and to the environment, according to an Irish scientist.
Joe McCarthy, a physicist and qualified engineer from Sandymount in Dublin, says the new plant mooted for Rathcoole would be larger than the controversial Ringsend incinerator.
The company behind the proposed plant, Energy Answers International (EAI), have based its design on a similar facility in the US which went on fire after an explosion last year.
EAI lodged an application for planning permission for the €200m thermal waste treatment plant at Behan's Quarry in Rathcoole near the N7 with An Bord Pleanála in May. EAI says the plant is the first of its kind in Ireland and will thermally treat 365,000 tonnes of non-hazardous municipal solid waste yearly.
Joe McCarthy, who has also campaigned against the Ringsend proposal, pointed out the Rathcoole incinerator would have the capacity to burn up to 730,000 tonnes of waste a year because EAI will build two incineration processing lines, each with a 365,000-tonne capability. EAI's environmental impact statement says they will only use one of the units at any one time. "I have no doubt in my mind that they will use both processing lines. They give no commercial reason why they have a fully redundant design," McCarthy said.
On 31 March 2007, an incinerator originally designed and built by EAI in Rochester, Massachusetts, caught fire after an explosion at the plant. The blaze took over 24 hours to extinguish. McCarthy said since the plant in Rochester opened in 1989 it has "consistently" exceeded acceptable EU levels for the emission of pollutants. "The incinerator will produce an enormous amount of particulate matter. This is tiny dust including dioxins and other harmful material but the particulate matter is more dangerous [to human health] than dioxins."
He also says the main chimney from the incinerator is not high enough to effectively disperse pollutants and could be a health hazard for some nearby residents.
EAI saya the plant would operate within the standards set down by the Environmental Protection Agency and the EU. "We have never exceeded the US levels acceptable for dioxins. Our history has been that we have met EU levels," he said. "We will absolutely meet EU standards and there won't be any violations of the standards here.
"I haven't seen any evidence... of any human health impact or deaths due to the combustion of waste." McCarthy added that the company had submitted a sophisticated model for the main chimneystack to the EPA, which takes into account "the topography of the land and the amount of material coming out of the stack".
The final decision by An Bord Pleanála on the facility is expected by the end of the year.