Sunday 14 September 2008

Initial Cork waste tests show no public threat

PRELIMINARY RESULTS of an investigation into waste material from the former Irish Ispat plant at Haulbowline suggest the waste does not pose any major threat to public health, the Minister for the Environment said yesterday.

John Gormley stressed that consultants White Young Green (WYG) are still awaiting some test results from samples taken at the the former plant, but all indications so far suggest there is no cause for alarm regarding the waste being harmful to residents of the Cork harbour area.

“It would appear at this stage that there is no real cause for concern but I hasten to add, and this comes with a health warning, the report itself has not been completed yet and it has not been peer reviewed so those are the caveats,” said Mr Gormley.

Mr Gormley was speaking during a visit to Cobh Town Council where he briefed local public representatives amid concerns the former steel plant which closed in 2001 may contain more hazardous materials than previously thought.

Mr Gormley was accompanied by White Young Green director Kevin Cleary who addressed concerns regarding reports that waste at slag heaps at the East Tip part of the island contains cancer causing materials Chromium 6 and Caesium 137.

Mr Cleary said extensive testing had found no significant levels of Chromium 6 while the investigation had found no trace of any radioactive material including Caesium 137.

Mr Cleary said the analysis had focused on the East Tip area of the former steel plant as that was where waste was deposited.

“We looked at open areas focusing primarily on the East Tip. though we have taken background measurements from elsewhere on the site, and there is a portion of the East Tip that contains hazardous material but the vast majority of it is non-hazardous.

“The hazardous material has oil components, there are some heavy metals but the total chromium levels are low in it. We’ve found one or two low levels of leachate from samples of Chromium 6 in relation to sludge material but that’s a very localised sporadic issue.”

Mr Cleary said they had also checked out reports of radioactive material being dumped on the site. The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland provided certificates showing the material had been removed and properly disposed of.

Mr Gormley said he hoped to receive the completed report from WYG by the end of the month and it would then be peer reviewed before he would bring proposals to Cabinet regarding the site to ensure that it does not pose any health threat.

Yesterday’s meeting was marked by an angry exchange with Cllr John Mulvihill Snr of Labour who branded Mr Gormley “a disgrace” for failing to meet local public representatives in June before calling on him to commission a baseline health study of the harbour area. Mr Gormley said he envisaged holding discussions with the Department of Health and HSE with a view to carrying out some health study when he brings proposals to Cabinet.

The Irish Times

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