Saturday, 1 November 2008

Toxic waste dump ‘no threat to public’

EXPERTS have made several recommendations to reduce the risk from vast quantities of toxic waste dumped close to the Irish naval headquarters in Cork Harbour.

However, the toxic materials at the former Irish Steel plant do not pose an immediate risk to naval or civilian staff based at Haulbowline, a report has found.

The Environmental Health and Safety report was carried out by RPS Engineers on behalf of the Department of Defence. It was ordered after the Irish Examiner revealed in July the full extent of the environmental disaster on the former steelworks site alongside the naval base.

Up to 500,000 tonnes of toxic waste are dumped on the site, which was described by experts as one of the country’s worst environmental disasters. Most of it is piled in an area known as the “east tip”.

RPS conducted soil and air tests at various locations at the naval base and around the steelworks site.

Their report, seen by the Irish Examiner, says elevated levels of potentially hazardous substances were recorded in some areas, in particular the north-east of the naval dockyard and close to the chapel.

“The concentrations are not sufficient to present an unacceptable risk to site personnel considering the low likelihood of exposure in these areas,” the report reads. But as a precautionary measure, further investigations are being undertaken.

Tests to establish the risk to staff from wind-blown dust found that there were no breaches of Heath and Safety Authority limits.

However, the report did state that the levels of airborne dust could increase after an extended dry period, followed by an easterly wind, and if waste material is excavated.

Dust samples at each of eight test locations were well below the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) daily concentration limit. Just one single high result was recorded, and it was still below the World Health Organisation guideline. All other results were considered moderate.

However, the report did say that dust levels could have been higher had it not been for record rainfall in August — 183% higher than the 30-year average at Cork Airport.

Irish Examiner

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