TAXPAYERS forked out more than €42 million on the controversial Haulbowline clean-up operation when toxic waste was buried instead of removed.
The hazardous waste, which was covered up during the costly operation at the start of the year, is likely to cost the State up to €300m to dispose of.
The clean-up operation was suspended in June, when the Irish Examiner revealed that the sub-contractors carrying out the work were told by the Department of the Environment to “cap” the lagoons containing the toxic material at the former Irish Steel plant, rather than remove it.
Figures from the department show that the work cost €42m. “Further costs of approximately €1.1m will arise in 2008 in respect of ongoing management of the site, including in regard to site staff, security, utilities and small trade and service contracts,” said Environment Minister John Gormley in a written response to a Dáil question.
The Government spent a further €300,000 on independent consultants or experts to carry out investigations on the site to determine what risk it posed to human health.
“This comprises costs associated with sampling, analysis, topographical and foreshore ecological surveys, project management and professional fees for the three distinct modules of work, ie air, marine and site investigation and assessment,” said Mr Gormley.
“It is anticipated that an additional amount of approximately €50,000 will be expended, including the costs associated with a peer review, by the time all the current investigations and reports are finalised,” he added.
A report being carried out for the department on the toxic threat of the site is now three months overdue.
Fine Gael Cork East TD, David Stanton, who tabled the Dáil question, said the cost is particularly worrying because the minister has still not made any plans for the future use of the site.
“I am very concerned about what is going on in Haulbowline.
“The cost of site investigations and clean-up costs have been massive but still no decision has been taken on the preferred use of the site and necessary future works,” he said.
“In 2004, the minister estimated that surveys and remediation of the Irish ISPAT site would cost approximately €30m. Expenditure has now far surpassed that.
“To make matters worse the minister has advised that he cannot quantify future costs without determining the future use of the site.
“He should make public his intentions for the site immediately,” said Mr Stanton.
Following the publication of the Haulbowline report, Mr Gormley will bring proposals to the cabinet on what should be done with the site.
It is expected it will be cleaned up, at an estimated cost of €300m, and used as a public amenity.