Wednesday 25 February 2009

Department warns An Bord Pleanála of risks from harbour incinerators

THE Department of the Environment has lodged a submission to An Bord Pleanála outlining potential risks to human, plant and animal life from the proposed development of two e150 million incinerators at Cork Harbour.

The document which is one of approximately 284 submissions, warns of potential problems that need to be addressed if permission is granted to the 280,000 tonne hazardous and household waste incinerators.

It points out that the incinerator is within one kilometre of a European-Union designated Special Protection Area (SPA) which could be adversely affected by emissions from the incinerators. It also said that the area has more planned areas of conservation including Rostellan and Monkstown Creek.

The department warns there is also a potential risk to flora and fauna in the wider harbour area — including damage to waterbirds from mercury poisoning.

A spokesman for the department, headed by Green Minister John Gormley, last night said the submission was an objection per se.

"The minister hasn’t objected to the proposal as he is precluded by law from doing so. We have simply made comments on the proposal in the context of the possible impacts on any sensitive areas in the vicinity of the facility," he said.

A total of 284 submissions were lodged with An Bord Pleanála earlier this month, under the Strategic Infrastructure Act, objecting to the controversial incinerators.

The objectors are seeking an oral hearing on Indaver’s planned development but it’s not yet known if this request will be complied with. The board could just give a green or red light to the development, without further consultation. They have stated that they want to make a final decision, either way, by mid-June.

Indaver say the incinerators are "must-have" for this country if we want to avoid hefty EU levies for sending too much waste to landfill. A planning application for a 100,000-tonne incinerator was first lodged seven years ago but by the time the planning appeal process had run its course, the original permission had expired. The second request for planning permission was made via An Bord Pleanála as the Strategic Infrastructure Act came into force in the meantime.

Objections were received from the IFA, the Irish Midwives Association, Cobh Doctors Association, East Cork Tourism, local primary and secondary schools, local school boards of management, the Allen family at Ballymaloe House and Monkstown Bay Sailing Club. Local Labour, Fine Gael and Green party TDs and councillors also objected as did Michael McGrath TD of Fianna Fáil.

Cork Harbour for a Safe Environment (CHASE) spokeswoman Linda Fitzpatrick said the group were heartened by the level of objections and that it was much higher than they had expected.

"We were delighted to the see the minister and the department objecting as his predecessors Ministers Roche, Cullen and Dempsey wouldn’t even meet us. We are disgusted however that local people had to pay over e17,500 in total to once again make their views known," she said.

Commenting on the submissions received, an Indaver spokesperson said that many of the objections received by An Bord Pleanála were repetitive in nature.

"Ireland and Cork needs this infrastructure — our waste mountain and economy demands it," said Jane Hennessey.

CHASE have fought the planned incinerator for nearly seven years on the grounds that "the site is the wrong site" for physical reasons and that the local population will suffer adverse health consequences from dioxin emissions.

They say it flouts 13 of 14 World Health Organisation guidelines for locating incinerators including it being on a flood plain and just metres from population centres. It is also an area at risk of coastal erosion.

Irish Examiner

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