Tuesday 9 December 2008

Local pressure groups call for more work to be done on site

THE STUDY by environmental consultants White Young Green into the risks to human health from waste at the former Irish Steel plant at Haulbowline received a mixed response yesterday from environmental groups and public representatives in Cork.

Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase) welcomed the report but called on the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, to honour his commitment to ensuring that the site is remediated to a safe and acceptable level.

Chase spokeswoman Mary Hurley said that the report focused solely on the East Tip area of the former steel plant and called for further investigation of the risk posed by waste materials elsewhere on the site including at the former steel work buildings.

"The consultants said it was very important now to do a full investigation of the whole site and not just the East Tip area and that's what we're looking for from Minister Gormley - a full assessment of the level of risk across the entire site," said Ms Hurley

"Our other concern is that this report calls for further ongoing monitoring but that should not be used as a reason for not acting now - the situation remains urgent and we don't want the current budgetary problems used as a reason for doing nothing."

Friends of the Irish Environment spokesman Tony Lowes said that the report appeared to ignore "more than 13 years of documented evidence of concentrated contamination by basing its conclusion on three months of very limited tests".

Mr Lowes instanced the report's recommendation for "engineering improvements", "rock armouring", "back filling" and said that a "toxic lagoon discovered by accident this year had been documented as far back as 1995 but was revealed this year during backfilling.

Cobh Action for Clean Air spokesman Frank Kelleher said that he took "some comfort from the report that the threat may not be as bad as first feared" but he said the levels of Chromium 6 being found in mussels in the harbour area was "worrying".

Cobh Labour Cllr John Mulvihill said he was concerned that Mr Gormley might use the report's call for further study as a reason for deferring remedial works at the site which he said "was a matter of very great concern to the people of Cobh and the lower harbour."

"I'm afraid that next report will recommend a further report and the whole thing will get long fingered," said Mr Mulvhill. He called on Mr Gormley to honour a pledge to raise the issue of a baseline health study of people in the lower harbour area with the Minister for Health Mary Harney.

Irish Times


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