Monday 8 December 2008

Report shows Haulbowline site is safe

The investigation into the dangers posed by waste material from the former Irish Ispat plant at Haulbowline in Cork Harbour has concluded there is no risk to local residents.

The report, which was published by the Minister for the Environment John Gormley this morning, was compiled by environmental consultants White Young Green.

The assessment involved analysis of soil, slag, dust, surface and ground water samples for all likely contaminants, including Chromium VI, to determine whether there was a threat to human health or the environment.

In July, the Government was accused of a cover-up concerning the extent of waste at the site after it was disclosed that an estimated 500,000 tonnes of waste material had been buried at the former steel plant which closed in 2001.

A report on the environmental impact of pollution on the neighbouring Naval Service base at Haulbowline, which was released in September, also concluded that there was no unacceptable risk to health.

Mr Gormley today reiterated his commitment to dealing with the legacy issue of waste at the Haulbowline site and said he would be bringing a report to Government early in the New Year for decisions on what actions, if any, should be taken.

Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment, which represents local residents, welcomed the publication of the report and called on the Government to ensure that funding is made available to make the site safe.

Fine Gael said that while the report had concluded that there was no identifiable threat to residents, it was clear that the site is still toxic and that the marine ecosystem in the harbour continues to be adversely affected by
toxic waste material.

"The report confirms that toxic material remains on the site and calls for further investigation of the site and of the harbour more generally. Ultimately, there is only one solution to this problem, and that is the removal of all toxic material," said Simon Coveney, Fine Gael TD for Cork South Central.

“This is an unlicensed, unregulated, toxic dump without planning permission on a porous site in the middle of Cork Harbour. It should be removed over a phased period in a responsible manner,” he added.

Sinn Féin's environment spokesman Martin Ferris questioned whether the report had fully addressed residents' concerns.

“There have been a number of reports over the years, which have taken a long time to emerge and there are still doubts with regard to whether all the facts and previous findings are in the public domain. Not to mention the unresolved issue of why the prevalence of cancer in the area is so much higher than the national average,” he said. "I would therefore call on Minister Gormley to publish or republish all previous reports on the site along with the current report."

Elsewhere, the Labour Party said the study was limited due to the fact that it focussed on one part of Haulbowline Island and did not address the rest of the site.

"The people of the Cork Harbour area have been living under the cloud cast by this site for years, particularly in the last six months. They now require assurances from John Gormley that the problem will be sorted out once and for all," said Ciaran Lynch Labour Party TD, Cork South Central.

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