Thursday, 24 June 2010

EU asked to look into Cork toxic dump case

THE European Commission is to be asked to investigate the Government’s handling of a toxic dump discovered in Cork harbour.

Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly said he would be raising the matter with the commission after it was disclosed that a working group set up by the OPW had no remit to address remediation, contamination or containment at the site on Haulbowline island.

There was widespread anger after Health Minister Mary Harney refused to carry out a baseline health study on people living in the lower harbour.

Mr Kelly said it "beggared belief" that two years after the discovery of the dump, which contained highly carcinogenic Chromium 6, nothing had been done to assess its health risks or clean it up.

The MEP said he would be asking the commission if the Government had broken any European laws in relation to the dump.

He said he would also be appealing to the commission to provide money for a clean-up and a baseline health survey of the local population.

Earlier this week, Deputy David Stanton accused the Government of either attempting a cover-up or exhibiting incompetence by allowing the working group, set up under the OPW, to examine the future of the site without immediately addressing the most important issue: how to make it safe. Environment Minister John Gormley, meanwhile, has defended the Government’s protracted effort to find a long-term solution to the toxic Haulbowline site.

Cobh has a cancer rate 37% above the national average, and the cause of this hasn’t been identified.

The minister said the risk assessment and working group process, which has been criticised for its failure to deal with the contamination, was the best way forward.

"It is crucial that in dealing with such sites, rather than piecemeal action, which could inadvertently cause problems with the local community and the environment, a coherent overall approach is taken and we have the objective to ensure we get the best possible result."

Mr Gormley was responding to a Labour Party motion in the Seanad which criticised the Government’s record on the site.

Mr Gormley said the initial working group, which only met for the first time this year, would inform future work.

This will involve consultation with the community throughout the harbour area, he said, and help decide what is the best remediation method for the former Irish Steel site.

He said the Irish Steel buildings had already been demolished and decontaminated. And he claimed more had been spent on clean up work during 12 months of the Green Party in Government than in the previous 68-year history of the site.

Irish Examiner

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