Wednesday 16 February 2011

Incinerator opponents 'frustrated' with silence

OPPONENTS OF plans for a hazardous waste incinerator at Ringaskiddy, in Cork harbour, have expressed “sheer frustration” over the continued silence of UCC, Cork Institute of Technology and the National Maritime College of Ireland on the scheme.

The maritime college is located across the road from the site chosen by Indaver Ireland for both the proposed hazardous waste incinerator and a separate municipal waste incinerator. There are plans to locate a maritime and energy research campus alongside the college.

Known as Merc3, this joint venture by the university, the institute of technology and the maritime college and private investors would also include a “commercial cluster” and secured €7 million last year in funding for its development. It is widely seen in Cork as a vehicle to create high-level, sustainable jobs.

All of the stakeholders involved are aware of Indaver’s plan, but they have declined to express any views on the proposed incinerators despite repeated representations by the Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase) which has led the campaign against it.

“I have communicated with them all to impress upon them that this proposed development of Indaver’s will impact on their plans to develop the area adjacent to the maritime college as an energy campus,” the alliance’s chairwoman, Mary O’Leary, said.

“Sadly to say they will not even engage in dialogue.

“I have sent them all the new information that has been submitted since November 2010 expressing the concerns of planners, HSE, Cork County Council and Chase, but have got no response, which I think is unacceptable.”

Expressing “sheer frustration” over the silence of all three colleges, Ms O’Leary noted that the maritime college is just 15m (49ft)from Indaver’s site, which would have to be designated under the EU’s “Seveso” directive covering sites that constitute major accident risks.

She also pointed out that Peter Daly, chief emergency officer for the HSE’s southern region, had expressed his concerns about the inventory of waste that Indaver is seeking to incinerate and the threat it poses to the public and to his staff in the event of an incident.

Giving evidence in a personal capacity at an oral hearing on Indaver’s planning application in October 2009, Mr Daly said: “The credible scenarios must include the possibility of a vapour cloud explosion.”

He also noted that there was only one entry to and exit from the site.

“Put simply, the proposed facility is too big for this site,” he said.

“The concept of persons being evacuated from the NMCI being compelled to move towards the [Indaver] facility, before being able to flee to the left or to the right, will be of significant and ongoing concern.”

Capt John Clarence, head of the maritime college, said he had no comment to make.

“There have been numerous attempts to try and drag the NMCI into the debate. Any comments should be sought through CIT”, he added. But CIT did not respond to queries from The Irish Times. Neither did UCC.

Val Cummins, director of Merc3, said its official position was that “we’re respecting due process” and leaving the matter to An Bord Pleanála to decide. “There are planning officials who have expertise and responsibility in this area,” she added.

“There is a big difference between an institutional perspective and a personal one,” Ms Cummins said.

“It’s certainly not an ideal neighbour to have, speaking personally . . . UCC is keeping a watching brief on it, but as an organ of the State it isn’t entering into public debate.”

Indaver Ireland has submitted revised plans after being requested to do so in January 2010 by An Bord Pleanála, which sought further information on how it would deal with coastal erosion and flooding.

Tomorrow is the deadline for making submissions to the board.

Irish Times

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