The government has told the European Commission that there is no permit for a waste dump on the site of the former Irish Steel plant at Haulbowline in Co Cork.
The EU commission has been investigating whether the site complies with EU law after it received a complaint about the dump in 2009. The steel works closed in 2001.
In response to a European Commission request for information, the Irish government confirmed that, during a site clean-up organised by officials from the Department of the Environment, a hazardous sludge pit was discovered at the site.
The site is owned by the state, which carries all liability arising from it, including any commitment to make it compliant with EU environment law.
The department hired a team of consultants to conduct an environmental assessment at the dump, which is now referred to as the east tip.
The expert study concluded that there was no threat to human health in the area arising from the dump, despite the presence of significant contaminants on the site.
‘‘Inasmuch as the east tip appears to have served as a disposal site for waste from the steel works during its period of operation, the circumstances point to the need for it to have been the subject of a waste permit under EU waste framework legislation of the European Parliament and of the council on waste," read a briefing given to the European Parliament by Janez Potocnik, EU Environment Commissioner.
‘‘However, the Irish authorities have indicated that the relevant licence under Irish law was invalidated by the Irish High Court in 2004 and that there is currently no permit in place," The update followed a series of queries from Irish MEPs on the EU’s stance in relation to the dump, including one from Fianna Fáil MEP Sean Kelly.
‘‘The Irish authorities have set up a working group to consider the future use of the site and indicated that the relevant permit arrangements are dependent on the outcome of this," Potocnik told MEPs in a letter dated September 1.
‘‘In the light of this information, the commission is considering the next appropriate steps to take," In his query to the commission, Kelly said the Irish National Cancer Registry had ‘‘proved that the island of Cobh has one of the highest cancer rates in the country’’.
Sunday Business Post