A 5,500-signature petition, which is aimed at forcing the Irish Government to undertake a clean up operation at a toxic dump on Haulbowline island in Cork was handed to the European Parliament last week.
The petition, drafted by the Cork Harbour Health pressure group, was presented to Eurocrats by Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly.
In July 2008, it was discovered that tonnes of toxic waste had been dumped on Haulbowline island, including the highly carcinogenic Chromium 6. Major concerns have been raised that the dump could be responsible for Cobh having a 37% higher rate of cancer than the national average.
"It is time that the Irish authorities deal with this ongoing issue. This toxic dump is not licensed and this has been the case for 10 years," Mr Kelly said. He said he was hopeful that the European Parliament would put pressure on the Irish Government to clean up the dump and make it safe.
Much anger was generated in Cobh when Health Minister Mary Harney decided she wasn’t going to carry out a baseline health study on the local population, especially as a promise to do so had been previously made by Environment Minister John Gormley.
Anger reached fever pitch when it was discovered that a task force set up by the OPW didn’t have any remit to clean up the site.
Mr Kelly stressed that Ireland was held to be in breach of the Waste Management Directive 75/442/EEC, as all landfills are required to be licensed under European law. He said there were no exceptions to this and expected the European Parliament to act on the matter.
Steel manufacturing began on Haulbowline Island before World War II and he said the industrial residues of the steel manufacturing process have been embedded in and around the island for over 60 years.
"The Irish state cannot afford to let this situation continue. The inhabitants of the Cork harbour area deserve to know if there is a link between the high cancer rates and the leaching toxins from the site," the MEP said.
He added it was important to clean up the site from an environmental perspective.